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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

    Microsoft issues RFP for Surface Hub

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    This past January, Microsoft revealed to the world Microsoft Surface Hub, a state-of-the-art, large-format, pen and touch computing device—think of it as a digital whiteboard on steroids—that empowers our enterprise customers to collaborate, brainstorm, and get insight into their data.

    This product brings together the very best of Microsoft capabilities, combining first-rate hardware in display, touch, and sensing, with a custom edition of Windows 10 specifically designed for communal scenarios, with integrated key productivity applications and services.

    How would you harness the potential of Microsoft Surface Hub?

    With Surface Hub, we are launching a completely new category of computing using the large screen for group productivity. This is a relatively young field with lots of greenfield opportunity, which is why we invite the academic research community to join us in advancing it. 

    Surface Hub has its roots in Perceptive Pixel, a company dedicated to multi-touch interfaces that formed out of my academic research at New York University Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. Here at Microsoft, participation in and support of the research community has always been a core part of our culture even as we’ve advanced on our commercial mission. This RFP exemplifies the academic-industry collaboration that is a hallmark of Microsoft Research.

    On behalf of Microsoft Research and Microsoft Devices Group, I am thrilled to announce an RFP that will award a Surface Hub and up to US$25,000 to selected research proposals from qualified academic institutions.

    We look forward to receiving submissions in a range of domains, including core HCI techniques (such as inking and sketch-based interfaces, pen and touch, large-screen interaction, proxemics, and multi-modal interfaces), collaboration, information visualization, and technology in education/training.

    But what’s really great about Surface Hub is just how broadly its impact can reach. We are interested in proposals from any field, especially those that demonstrate alignment to Microsoft’s mission of productivity, and we expect rigorous work leading to novel contributions.

    To learn more about the RFP, please visit Surface Hub for Research. The deadline for proposal submissions is June 12.

    Jeff Han, General Manager for Microsoft Surface Hub

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  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Tune in for the latest on devices and networking

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    Devices and Networking Summit 2015

    Tomorrow, May 12, is the first full day of the Microsoft Research Devices and Networking Summit, which brings together more than 200 experts to discuss cutting-edge developments, potential breakthroughs, and ongoing concerns in today’s evermore connected world.  An event of this significance deserves broad participation, which is why we are thrilled to announce that Wednesday, May 13, we will broadcast key speeches, interviews, and demos from the Summit. That’s right—some of the best of the conference will be available online. Just tune in this Wednesday.

    The Wednesday webcast will explore such topics as the design of the next generation of connected devices, including a keynote address from renowned materials scientist Sir Richard Friend. And we’ll provide an in-depth look at how inexpensive, but powerful, platforms are enabling schoolchildren to build their own prototypes—and generating excitement about STEM subjects.

    You’ll also get insights into developments in spectrum issuesthink next-gen Wi-Fiand learn about Mobility First, a proposed new architecture of the Internet.  Meanwhile, those of you who are concerned with security and privacy—that would be everyone, right?—will get advice from two of the leading experts in this fraught area.  And if those anxieties raise your blood pressure, you’ll take heart when you learn what’s new in the world of wearable, connected health monitors.

    Interested in how the cloud plays into this realm of interconnections? We have just the keynote for you, as Microsoft Research distinguished scientist Victor Bahl envisions a future in which “cloudlets” provide seamless connections.

    And what’s a Microsoft Research conference without demos? Unthinkable. So we’ll feature deep dives into four “bleeding-edge” demo projects.  Throughout the entire broadcast, you’ll see firsthand the value of industry-academia collaboration, as researchers combine their unique strengths to achieve outcomes that are far greater than the sum of the parts.

    Speaking of industry-academia collaboration, we'll also provide information about the Surface Hub for Research RFP (request for proposal). This RFP is a golden opportunity for qualified academic researchers to create innovative applications that exploit the capabilities of the Surface Hub’s huge, multi-sensing, pen-and-touch display.

    All of this and more will be available on May 13. So plug in, switch on, and enjoy!

    Ant Rowstron and Steve Hodges, Co-Chairs of the Microsoft Devices and Networking Summit

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  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Open-source projects shine at workshop

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    Wandering through the streets of Madrid, alive with people socializing until late at night, I was reminded of the importance of networking and collaboration. For Microsoft Research, it is our lifeblood. Through our joint research centers, along with internships, scholarships, fellowships, and visitor programs, we remain connected to researchers who share our passion to use computing to improve lives. Last month, those connections were on full display as we celebrated our collaborations with European institutions during the Microsoft Research IMDEA Software Institute Collaboration Workshop (MICW).

    The Microsoft IMDEA Software Joint Research Centre was formed in 2014. This collaborative venture between Microsoft Research and the IMDEA Software Institute fosters work on topics of mutual interest in the following broad categories: scalable and correct data management in the cloud, verification for cryptography and security, and secure distributed programming. A distinctive event organized by the center is the annual MICW, now in its second year. I was keen to see what progress had been made and what projects would emerge to offer real, positive results. I was not disappointed, nor, I suspect, were the other 50 attendees.

    The workshop brought together researchers and students to discuss their collaborative work on hot topics in software.
    The workshop brought together researchers and students to discuss their collaborative work on hot topics in software.

    At the top of the list is F*, a project that involves our Redmond and Cambridge Labs as well as IMDEA and Inria in France. F* is a new higher order programming language (like ML), designed with program verification in mind. F* allows for the expression of precise and compact specifications for programs, including functional correctness properties. The F* type-checker works behind the scenes to prove that programs meet their specifications by using an automated theorem prover (usually Z3) to discharge proof obligations. Programs written in F* can be translated to OCaml, F#, or JavaScript for execution.

    F* has already been used to verify implementations of cryptographic constructions and protocols and web browser extensions, to verify the formalization of the semantics of other languages (including JavaScript and a compiler from a subset of F* to JavaScript and TS*, a secure subset of TypeScript), and even to certify the correctness of the core of F* type-checker itself.

    The latest version of F* is written entirely in F*, and bootstraps in OCaml and F#. It is open source and under active development on GitHub. Many people are surprised to learn that Microsoft has so much open-source software, but even .NET is now open-sourced through the .NET Foundation.

    Another exciting project, Orleans, was the topic of an inspiring keynote by Microsoft Distinguished Scientist Phil Bernstein. As Phil explained, Orleans is a framework that provides a straightforward approach to building distributed high-scale computing applications, without the need to learn and apply complex concurrency or other scaling patterns.

    Created by Microsoft Research and designed for use in the cloud, Orleans has been deployed extensively by several Microsoft product groups, most notably by 343 Industries, which is using it as a platform for all Halo 4 cloud services. Many of the attendees were impressed that a system powering the world’s most popular game is open source, a fact that further underscores Microsoft’s deep commitment to open development, which we believe fosters community participation and collaboration, encourages innovation, and broadens and strengthens the future of IT.

    Phil Bernstein spoke about Orleans, a straightforward approach to building distributed high-scale computing applications.
    Phil Bernstein spoke about Orleans, a straightforward approach to building distributed high-scale computing applications.

    This commitment to collaboration was also evident during the extensive discussion periods, as when Kapil Vaswani from Microsoft Research India asked whether attendees could develop criteria for checking the robustness of cloud applications (in particular, under weakening transactions to causality), by applying the criteria to case studies from Orleans and other domains. The work would build on static analysis algorithms, which are a particular strength of Microsoft researchers, and would profit from the unique expertise brought by outside researchers.

    Judith Bishop, Director of Computer Science, Microsoft Research, and Cédric Fournet, Principal Researcher, Microsoft Research

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