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Microsoft Research Connections Blog

The Microsoft Research Connections blog shares stories of collaborations with computer scientists at academic and scientific institutions to advance technical innovations in computing, as well as related events, scholarships, and fellowships.

  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    How to Say “Fourth Paradigm” in Portuguese


    Through my work with academics in Brazil, I have witnessed an increasing awareness of the importance of computing in advancing scientific research in such areas as bioenergy, biodiversity, climate change, and plant physiology. In order to advance these fields, scientists need to deal with increasingly complex projects that require the expertise of a multidisciplinary team, and computing is a key element in this effort.

    From data acquisition to data management, visualization, and modeling, researchers confront the need for new tools to enable innovative investigations. At the Microsoft Research-FAPESP Institute, I’ve seen programs such as BIOEN (a bioenergy research program), BIOTA (a biodiversity project), and the Research Program on Global Climate Change, and they all share the need to access and manage massive amounts of data.

    An electronic version of The Fourth Paradigm was released in Portuguese on August, 15, 2011.In light of this need, the Microsoft Research-FAPESP Institute launched the Portuguese translation of The Fourth Paradigm: Data-Intensive Scientific Discovery, a wide-ranging collection of essays on the process and promise of data-intensive science. An outgrowth of the thinking of late Microsoft researcher Jim Gray, The Fourth Paradigm sets out the parameters of twenty-first-century eScience.

    The launch of the Portuguese edition took place on November 3, 2011, at FAPESP in São Paulo. Professor Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, FAPESP’s scientific director, opened the launch event, observing that “Science advances mostly through the development and application of new instruments. Computing power, the cloud, and other facilities constitute a big new instrument that allows researchers to obtain and analyze gigantic data sets in a way which was not possible a few years ago. The Fourth Paradigm deals with this fascinating window of opportunity for science and a Portuguese translation will contribute to the visibility of the authors’ ideas in Brazil.”

    Professor Roberto Marcondes Cesar, Jr., who supervised the translation into Portuguese, then spoke about eScience in Brazil. “The Brazilian computer science community has been working together with domain scientists for decades in fields such as astronomy, geoscience, bioenergy, and medicine—to name but a few. Different expressive results addressing relevant problems for the country have been achieved and the Brazilian CS [computer science] researchers proceed to increase the collaboration results both in volume and quality. In this sense, the Portuguese translation of The Fourth Paradigm represents an important step in disseminating eScience methods and opportunities, both to attract CS researchers and students to the field and to draw the attention of domain scientists who may benefit from interdisciplinary research.”

    These comments set the stage for a talk by Dan Fay, the director of Microsoft Research Connection’s Earth, Energy, and Environment activities, who said, in part: “For scientists, access to massive amounts of data can be a blessing and a curse—finding the significant nuggets of information that will lead to insights in the huge volumes of data is the problem. Big data is as much challenge as opportunity. When you have data sets as a large as a petabyte, that’s always going to be difficult to move around and analyze… The science of big data is as much about asking the right questions, so that scientists collect the right data, as it is trying to sift through data after the fact.”

    Microsoft Research Connections is proud to partner with FAPESP in the pursuit of data-intensive research, as together we explore the use of computing technology to meet the social and economic needs in the Brazilian state of São Paulo. Oh, and this is how you say “fourth paradigm” in Portuguese: o quarto paradigma.

    Juliana Salles, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections

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  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Natural User Interface Leaps Forward with Release of Kinect for Windows SDK Beta


    Be part of the movement. Download the Kinect for Windows SDK beta.

    As astute readers of this blog will recall, back in April we reported on the progress of the non-commercial Kinect for Windows Software Development Kit (SDK), offering tantalizing descriptions of its capabilities and inviting you to follow its progress on a dedicated website. Well, I’m pleased to announce that the wait is over: the Kinect for Windows SDK beta was released on June 16, 2011, enabling the next phase of bringing natural user interfaces (NUI) to the PC.

    Designed to empower developers, academic researchers, and enthusiasts to explore new ideas and create rich applications, the Kinect for Windows SDK beta, which works with Windows 7, enables human motion tracking, voice recognition, and depth sensing on PCs. The SDK includes drivers, rich APIs for raw sensor streams and natural user interfaces, installation documents, and resource materials. It provides Kinect capabilities to developers who build applications with C++, C#, or Visual Basic by using Microsoft Visual Studio 2010. SDK features include:

    • Raw Sensor Streams: Access to raw data streams from the depth sensor, color camera sensor, and four-element microphone array allows developers to build upon the low-level streams that are generated by the Kinect sensor.
    • Skeletal Tracking: The capability to track the skeleton image of one or two people moving within the Kinect field of view makes it easy to create gesture-driven applications.
    • Advanced Audio Capabilities: Audio processing capabilities include sophisticated acoustic noise suppression and echo cancellation, beam formation to identify the current sound source, and integration with the Windows speech recognition API.
    • Sample Code and Documentation: The SDK contains more than 100 pages of technical documentation. In addition to built-in help files, the documentation includes detailed walkthroughs for most samples provided with the SDK.
    • Easy Installation: The SDK quickly installs in a standard way for Windows, requires no complex configuration, and the complete installer size is smaller than 100 MB. Developers can get up and running in just a few minutes with a standard standalone Kinect sensor unit (widely available at retail outlets).

    Just prior to this general release, we hosted a select group of researchers and enthusiasts at a 24-hour coding marathon here on our Redmond, Washington, campus. These developers were encouraged to build applications in areas of interest to them, including everything from gaming and entertainment to healthcare, science, and education. Their projects are being broadcast on Channel 9 Live on June 16, and can be viewed on demand after the fact. Highlights can be found on Microsoft News Center.

     As Anoop Gupta, a distinguished scientist at Microsoft Research stated, “The Kinect for Windows SDK beta from Microsoft Research opens up a world of possibilities for developers to unleash the power of Kinect technology on PCs. We are just at the beginning of Microsoft’s long-term vision for how people will interact with technology more naturally and intuitively.”

    All I can add is a question: What are you waiting for? Click on over to the SDK download site, and start building those NUI applications. The SDK is free for development of non-commercial applications, and the only boundaries are those set by your own imagination!

    Tony Hey, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Research Connections

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  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Microsoft Research – Inria Joint Centre: inventing today, tomorrow’s world


    When world-class research organizations work together on a long-term basis, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. That premise underlies Microsoft Research’s collaborative projects and joint ventures around the globe, including our recently renewed joint research center with Inria (the French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation).

    Since its founding in 2006, the Microsoft Research – Inria Joint Centre has innovatively applied computer science and mathematics to a host of scientific challenges, from formal methods for mathematics to distributed systems and security, computer vision and medical imaging, machine learning and big data, and social networks and privacy.

    From 4D cardiac MR images to mathematical components, researchers gather at the Inria Joint Research Centre

    Microsoft Research – Inria includes 100 researchers overall: 40 permanent researchers from Inria, 30 permanent researchers from Microsoft Research, and 30 non-permanent researchers (interns and postdoctoral and PhD students, representing some 23 nationalities). Today, May 19, the Joint Centre continued its quest to use computing to help solve big problems, hosting an event that reported on the ambitious projects currently underway (see the list later in this blog). The event also featured the following keynotes from some of the world’s foremost computing experts, including Jeanette Wing, corporate vice president of Microsoft Research, who gave an inspiring presentation on how the joint research center is important to science, technology and society.

    Jeanette Wing, corporate vice president Microsoft Research
    Jeanette Wing, corporate vice president of Microsoft Research

    • Thinking For Programmers: Rising Above the Code”: Leslie Lamport, this year’s Turing Award winner and a principal researcher at Microsoft Research Silicon Valley, discussed the need for programmers to create extremely rigorous specifications before coding complex systems, particularly concurrent and distributed systems.
    • “Machine learning for Brain Imaging: from pattern analysis to brain atlases”: Bertrand Thirion, director of research at the Joint Centre, spoke about using machine learning to extract patterns of neurological activity that can lead to a functional atlas of the brain.
    • Formal components for the odd order theorem”: Georges Gonthier, principal researcher and team leader at Inria, focused on how to combine software engineering, programming language, and formal logic techniques to package formal mathematical theories into components that lend themselves to computer-checked formalization of results.
    • Big Learning: New Challenges and Opportunities”: Francis Bach, a senior researcher and team leader at Inria, reviewed recent developments in machine learning—such as improvements in algorithm speed and the use of generalized learning representations—that are tailored to solving modern large-scale problems.

    Georges Gonthier, principal researcher and team leader at InriaGeorges Gonthier, principal researcher and team leader at Inria 

    Bertrand Thirion, director of research at the Joint Centre Bertrand Thirion, director of research at the Joint Centre

    The Joint Centre is currently focusing on the following projects:

    Projects on formal methods and their applications

    • Mathematical Components aims to develop the ability of existing proof assistants, such as Coq, to automatically check difficult proofs in mathematics.
    • Temporal Logic of Actions for Proof System addresses challenges in certifying correct behavior of distributed and concurrent systems, in which there is no certainty as to when distinct components will interact.
    • Secure Computing develops new languages and associated certification tools to prove that implementations of cryptographic protocols are sound, thereby improving the security of Internet transactions.

    Projects on machine learning and big data

    • Large-scale Structured Machine Learning develops new methods for achieving efficient trade-offs between statistical accuracy and computational cost. It also develops algorithms that efficiently trade off exploration with exploitation in active learning scenarios.
    • Z-Cloud Workflows develops solutions for efficiently instantiating workflows in a cloud-computing environment by mapping tasks of the workflow to specific machines. It conjointly optimizes the replication of data within the cloud computing nodes.
    • Interactive Network Visualization develops tools for interacting with and visualizing data that arises from both online social networks and brain imagery, with a particular emphasis on time series.
    • White Box Search-Based Software Engineering uses machine learning to improve software engineering by automatically determining software parameters and assisting developers through the recommendation of code snippets.

    Projects on computer vision and medical imaging

    • Video Understanding aims to extract rich features automatically from large video catalogues, in order to support semantically rich queries when searching such catalogues.
    • Medilearn develops personalized models that assist in the diagnosis and treatment of heart conditions. It also focuses on identification of human brain activation patterns induced by conducting specific cognitive tasks.

    Projects on social networks and privacy

    • Social Information Networks develops efficient recommendation of contacts and contents to users of online social networks. It also addresses the design of reward schemes for incentivizing efficient filtering of information by users.
    • Privacy-Friendly Services and Apps develops means for users to protect their private information, such as geo-localization traces, while preserving the ability of applications to provide value-added services.

    All told, this one-day event captured the essence of the valuable research taking place at the Microsoft Research – Inria Joint Research Centre, and it points out the value of our long-term investments in collaborative ventures.

    Scarlet Schwiderski-Grosche, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections EMEA

    —Pierre-Louis Xech, Microsoft Research-Inria Joint Centre Deputy Director, Microsoft France


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