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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

    Computer Vision Takes Center Stage at Moscow Summer School

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    When is the best time to be in Moscow? For 82 young computer-science researchers, the answer is July 28 to August 3, 2011. Not only is that usually one of summer’s warmest weeks in the Russian capital, it is also the week that the Microsoft Computer Vision School will take place at the Lomonosov Moscow State University.

    The school offers advanced undergraduates, doctoral students, young scientists, and developers a unique opportunity to learn from top scientists in the field of computer vision and image analysis. Courses will cover the fundamentals of the field and explore the latest research. The school also provides a great venue for networking, enabling the students to establish connections with each other and the school lecturers.
     
    Offering lectures, practical sessions, poster presentations, and a programming project, the Microsoft Computer Vision School aims to:

    • Foster the development of a stronger computer-vision community in the region by introducing young scientists from Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine to some of the world’s foremost computer scientists
    • Encourage young scientists to continue their research in the field by using the state-of-the art methods and tools—including those from Microsoft Research—which will be discussed during the lectures
    • Highlight the depth and breadth of the field by offering a wide variety of lectures—from beginner to advanced levels and from theoretical to practical—including a discussion devoted to computer vision start-ups

     The Microsoft Research Computer Vision School 2011 will be held at Lomonosov Moscow State University

    The Microsoft Research Computer Vision School 2011 will be held at Lomonosov Moscow State University

    The Microsoft Computer Vision School is sponsored by Microsoft Research and organized in cooperation with Lomonosov Moscow State University. It follows the highly successful MIDAS 2010 and HPC 2009 schools and represents another of the many collaborative efforts between Microsoft Research Connections and the world’s top academic institutions.

    Competition for admission to the school was particularly intense. The number of registrations at the school website exceeded 500, and the overall acceptance rate was fewer than 20 percent. Many of the applications were exceptionally strong, which made the decision process extremely difficult. The 82 admitted students come from 32 cities in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus and represent 48 academic institutions and companies. They, and we, are looking forward to a stimulating, information-packed experience—and maybe a few warm evenings in Red Square.
     
    Fabrizio Gagliardi, Director, Microsoft Research Connections EMEA (Europe, the Middle-East, and Africa)

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    Building Technology Without Bias

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    All too often, IT development takes place in an environment where men outnumber women, which affects the diversity of thought in the workforce. Here at Microsoft Research Connections, we are committed to working with the computing industry to help ensure that there is a good balance of bright minds from both genders to help further innovation.

    With that in mind, Microsoft Research Connections will again participate in the Women in Technology (WIT) workshop during the Brazilian Computing Society’s annual conference in July. The workshop uses lectures and meetings to focus on issues that are related to women’s digital literacy and their access to IT jobs, with a goal of increasing the participation of women in Brazil’s IT industry.

    Gayna WilliamsGayna Williams will represent Microsoft at this year’s WIT workshop, where she will deliver a lecture titled, “The Need for Female Voices in Software Development.” Williams, a 17-year veteran of Microsoft, is currently a principal user experience manager who is responsible for a “future directions” team in the Online Services division. As a woman who has helped design a wide range of consumer and enterprise software, Williams is well qualified to explain the need for a female perspective in the development process.

    In particular, she will discuss how the advent of connectivity and mobile technologies have blurred the boundaries between software for work environments and for the home, infusing technology more and more deeply into a diversity of environments and lifestyles. This development has led companies to think more seriously about increasing the appeal of their products to female users.

    Williams’ lecture will discuss how, despite this change in thinking, the over-representation of men in the software design process perpetuates an unintentional focus on attributes that appeal to male users. Williams will emphasize that developers must make a conscious effort to design IT products for women—it won’t take place by accident or even because of a corporate embrace of user-centered design processes. Therefore, women in the IT world are encouraged to voice their concerns to ensure that the female perspective is represented.

    The outcome will be not only better products for all users, but also greater success for the businesses that produce them. If you’re interested in improving IT products by making sure that the needs and values of both genders are considered during the engineering process, we encourage you to attend the workshop.

    Juliana Salles, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections

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

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    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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