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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

    Cloud Power in Europe

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    There are clouds on the horizon in Brussels, and European technology leaders couldn't be happier. On March 22, Microsoft inaugurated its new Cloud and Interoperability Center (CIC) in the Belgian capital—the heart of the European Union's (EU) institutions—underscoring Microsoft's and the EU's commitment to the potential of cloud-computing innovation and growth across Europe. With a mission of promoting interoperability and collaboration to make the most of information technology, the CIC will showcase the latest cloud solutions in such areas as education, health, and e-government; it will also foster advanced research projects on cloud computing and interoperability. The CIC will provide much needed support for public-sector organizations and small and midsized businesses as they explore and adopt cloud technology and create their own innovative solutions.

    Uli Pinsdorf, program manager in security team, MSR with Neelie Kroes, vice president of the European Commission

    Uli Pinsdorf, program manager in the security team, Microsoft Research, with Neelie Kroes, vice president of the European Commission 

    By offering a platform to experience cloud technology and share resources and knowledge, the CIC will act as both an incubator and catalyst for cloud computing in Europe. The CIC will host up to 15 cloud-based solutions, such as the Fire Risk Prevention system (previously called the Virtual Fire system) demo. Fire Risk Prevention demonstrates a cloud-based tool that uses analyses of metrological data, vegetation, and topographic models to predict wildfire risks anywhere on the Greek island of Lesvos. This application was initiated by the University of Aegean in cooperation with Microsoft Research Connections Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) and further developed by the European Microsoft Innovation Center (EMIC). Fire Risk Prevention is supported by VENUS-C, a collaboration that was established by Microsoft Research Connections EMEA and co-funded by the European Commission that involves scientific and technical partners across Europe. We anticipate that several other applications soon will be demonstrated on the VENUS-C platform, resulting from the conclusion of an open call that elicited more than 60 proposals.

    Neelie Kroes, vice president of the European Commission that is responsible for the EU Digital Agenda, gave the keynote speech at the CIC opening. Her address discussed the European Cloud Computing Strategy and the importance of such ventures as the CIC. She also showed a series of interactive demos, including the impressive Fire Risk Prevention system.

    During a transatlantic videoconference, Kroes congratulated Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer on the opening of the CIC and welcomed the focus on interoperability and standards. "This gives me confidence that Microsoft and other cloud providers and users will contribute constructively to my work on a European cloud-computing strategy. All together we can tackle the challenges we face today and get the most out of this technology," observed Kroes.

    Jean-Philippe Courtois, president of Microsoft International, also spoke at the CIC opening. Courtois stressed Microsoft's belief "that there's never been a more important time to invest in accelerating cloud adoption," and highlighted the investment in the opening of the Microsoft Innovation Center (MIC) in Brussels. He spoke about the value of cloud computing for small and midsized businesses, including startups, where it can provide enterprise-level computing power without prohibitive infrastructure investments. In the same vein, Courtois noted how cloud computing can drive productivity improvements and cost savings that will help budget-constrained governments address such societal challenges as health, education, research, and the environment.

    All in all, it was a grand celebration of a bright day—incongruously brought on by clouds!

    Fabrizio Gagliardi, Director, Microsoft Research Connections EMEA

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  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Microsoft Biology Foundation 2.0 Beta 1 Release and Coding Contest

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    I am pleased to announce the release of Microsoft Biology Foundation (MBF) 2.0 beta 1, an open-source Microsoft .NET library and application programming interface for bioinformatics research. This beta provides the first significant update since MBF 1.0. Notable improvements include:

    • Increased capacity for de novo assembly of larger and more complex species than V1
    • New comparative assembly functions for characteristic genetic diversity within or between species
    • Core object model improvements for a smaller memory footprint and increased parallel processing

     

    MBF 2.0 beta 1 has parity with all MBF 1.0 tools and features plus updated documentation.

    Microsoft Biology Foundation toolYour feedback on MBF 1.0 was extremely supportive and is helping us develop MBF 2.0. We are asking you once again to download the beta and send us your feedback. Just download and try the MBF 2.0 beta 1. Send us your feedback or report bugs through our discussion forum or issue tracker.

    To make it a little more interesting, we're giving away an Xbox 360 4GB console with Kinect bundle to one talented developer in our Microsoft Biology Foundation Coding Contest.

    To Enter the Contest

    • Visit the MBF Coding Contest site and read the complete rules.
    • Use our MBF object model, parsers, algorithms, and web connectors to build an application that helps researchers solve problems in the fields of bioinformatics and genomics.
    • Submit your MBF 2.0 beta 1-based application to us between today and July 15, 2011, and you’ll be entered to win!

    The winning entry will be selected by a panel of judges.

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    —Rick Benge, Community Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections

  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Celebrating an Out-of-This-World Earth Day

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    Earth Day - How will you celebrate your environment?

    It may seem like an unlikely way to celebrate Earth Day, but this year, students at the University of Washington (UW) can mark the occasion with an exhilarating virtual trip away from our small blue planet, thanks to a unique collaboration between Microsoft Research Redmond and the UW Planetarium 

    By incorporating digital images streamed from Microsoft's Worldwide Telescope (WWT), a computer program that brings together imagery from the world's best ground- and space-based telescopes, the UW Planetarium has gone beyond the typical static display of the heavens. WWT provides students with detailed views of the night sky through an incredible 3-D experience.

    In the past, the UW Planetarium used a star-ball to project an image of the night sky on the building's domed ceiling. This is the tried-and-true method of showing the constellations and brighter stars, but it lacks the ability of zooming into details of objects like nebulae and seeing the birth of new stars. Couple that with the excitement of 3-D—a feeling that you're actually flying through the solar system—and you take student engagement to a whole new level.

    The new projection system was a result of a two-year collaboration and cost approximately US$30,000—a bargain compared to equipping a planetarium with standard digital technology, which involves the installation of dedicated digital projection systems and can run half a million dollars or more. This low-cost system—created jointly by the UW Department of Astronomy and Microsoft researchers (especially WWT developer Jonathan Fay)—uses six modified home-theater projectors, each of which projects a portion of the digital image onto the dome. Software enables the perfect alignment of the six images and a resolution of 8 million pixels.

    The UW planetarium also allows attendees to see the Terapixel image—the largest and clearest image of the night sky ever produced—in all its glory. Not only is the UW's digital planetarium a boon to students, it also serves as a model for inexpensive digitization of planetariums around the world. While you're waiting for digital projection to reach an institution near you, you can fire up your PC and go to the WorldWide Telescope site. There you can zoom among the stars, albeit on a much smaller (and flatter) screen. Or, if you happen to be in Seattle, check out the UW Planetarium shows that are open to the general public and get lost in the stars.

    Dan Fay, Director of Earth, Energy, and Environment at Microsoft Research Connections

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