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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

    Digital Research Libraries Get a Boost with Latest Zentity Release


    On October 25, 2011, Microsoft Research Connections released an update to Zentity, a repository platform designed to manage research objects—such as journal articles, reports, datasets, projects, and people—as well as the relationships among them. Zentity supports arbitrary data models, and provides semantically rich functionality that enables users to find and visually explore interesting relationships among elements by using the Microsoft Silverlight PivotViewer control and Microsoft Research Visual Explorer.

    Digital Research Libraries Get a Boost with Latest Zentity Release

    With the 2.1 release, Zentity now includes the Resource Manager web user interface that provides better content management capabilities via easier ways to query the database, review and update records, and create and edit relationships among items. The Resource Manager will work with custom data models and even enables users to save searches for later use. Zentity 2.1 also offers the option to install a localized Spanish-language version of the software.

    I would like to highlight and thank a few of our partners who have been working with a variety of institutions to customize their Zentity deployments.

    Building Blocks has partnered with the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to expose the ESRC’s catalog of research projects and their outputs. The ESRC catalog contains more than 100,000 research objects, including books and journal articles as well as research outcomes and impact reports. The PivotViewer control integrated into Zentity 2.1 provides a visually compelling yet simple way for end-users to browse, filter, and explore decades’ worth of ERSC grant data and to find relevant research reports.

    In a case study on this project, Building Blocks wrote:

    Zentity was seen as the ideal research repository solution as it can handle the complex data models, whilst also providing data access in many open formats. In addition the team designed a more intuitive and robust backend system to enable ESRC support teams to manage the submission of research outputs, reducing management overhead. The quality and consistency of the data was also improved by ensuring the internal workflows were more efficient and allowing integration with other academic data sources such as SHERPA/RoMEO.

    Meanwhile, in Scotland, Company Net partnered with Queen Margaret University to create an online experience for the digital archive of content from the Homecoming Scotland 2009 events. A Scottish government initiative, Homecoming Scotland 2009 was a year-long celebration of Scottish culture and achievements. The archive site also uses the PivotViewer control to make it easy to pivot among the people, places, and events associated with the Homecoming Scotland 2009 celebrations.

    And finally, working with a collection of researcher data and electronic theses and dissertations at the Jorge Tadeo Lozano University (UJTL) in Bogotá, Colombia, Microsoft Partner Softtek delivered a solution localized in Spanish and customized to the needs of the researchers and integrated into UJTL’s environment. In his Softtek blog, Antonio Macias writes:

    Having partnered with Microsoft Research in the deployment of Zentity 2.0 has definitely been an enriching experience for us since, on one hand, we have demonstrated Softtek’s continuous commitment to deliver high-quality services while working jointly with a highly respected high-tech company like Microsoft. We have been exposed to emergent technologies that will shape our world in the next 5 or 10 years. Indeed this exposure will help us add a fresh perspective to the set of solutions that we already provide to our large base of customers.

    Zentity 2.1 is a freely available via download from Microsoft Research. I hope that you’ll give it a try, and if you are looking for partners to help on a deployment project, that you’ll use the Microsoft Partner Network.

    Alex Wade, Director for Scholarly Communication, Microsoft Research Connections

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  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Microsoft Research and the Kinect Effect


    Today (November 4) is the first anniversary of the launch of Kinect for Xbox 360 in the United States, with subsequent availability around the world. It has been a smashing success since its debut, thanks in part to contributions from Microsoft Research to its audio, skeletal-tracking, and facial-recognition capabilities. And further refinements could mean the best is yet to come.

    Kinect for Xbox 360 has been a smashing success since its debut a year ago.Kinect for Xbox 360 has been a smashing success since its debut a year ago.

    For more on this, we have collated a resource page of stories, videos, publications, and other information, all easily accessible in one place at Microsoft Research Contributions to Kinect for Xbox 360.

    Microsoft Research Connections continues its focus on helping getting the word out about the Kinect for Windows SDK beta. Some of the results of this are starting to be shown through showcases such as the Kinect projects gallery at Channel 9. There are more than 100 entries shown there at the time of writing.

    Microsoft built Kinect to revolutionize the way you play games and how you experience entertainment. But along the way, people started using Kinect in ways we never imagined. From helping children with autism, to helping doctors in the operating room, people are taking Kinect beyond games. And that’s what we call the Kinect Effect.

    What will you do with Kinect next? See the future of possibilities of Kinect that go beyond the expected, into truly amazing things that people around the world are beginning to imagine. 


    Released today: download the Kinect for Windows SDK Beta 2 now!

    Stewart Tansley, Director of Natural User Interface, Microsoft Research Connections

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  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Chinese University Students Push the Boundaries of Kinect for Windows


    When Microsoft Research unveiled the Kinect for Windows Software Development Kit (SDK) beta in mid-June, we expected it would be popular with academic and enthusiast developer communities. But even with our high expectations for the SDK, we didn’t anticipate the level of creativity that was demonstrated by the Chinese university students who participated in the Kinect Pioneer Program. Given the opportunity to develop Windows applications that take advantage of the Kinect sensor, these students have created some truly remarkable projects.

    Students collaborating and sharing demos at the China Kinect Student Summer CampStudents collaborating and sharing demos at the China Kinect Student Summer Camp

    Kinect Pioneer Program Encourages Students to Innovate

    The Kinect Pioneer Program was introduced by Microsoft Research Asia in May 2011, in anticipation of the release of the non-commercial Kinect for Windows SDK beta. The program, which involved eight Chinese universities, established 25 student teams that intensely competed to create the most elegant and practical applications. By using Kinect sensor technology, the students generated applications that use depth sensing, voice and object recognition, and human motion tracking, and that are applicable to diverse topics: from education to commerce to culture and history. Six pioneer teams were selected to attend the 2011 China Kinect Student Summer Camp and shared their applications with more than 180 students from the top 30 universities in China.

    Team Applications Highlight Kinect Capabilities and Student Talent

    The following three applications exemplify the potential of Kinect for Windows as well as the students’ creativity and technical skills.

    • Kinect for the Classroom
      Team Frinect, from Wuhan University and Huazhong University of Science & Technology, designed a new set of presentation tools for teachers: by using the Kinect technology, they created a comprehensive digital workspace that combines a virtual blackboard with Microsoft PowerPoint and powerful multimedia and search functionalities. Thanks to Kinect technology, teachers no longer need chalk; by using gestures alone, instructors can type text, draw graphs and tables, underscore key points from long passages with audio cues, record lessons, and upload them to a server. Most importantly, the application promotes a livelier classroom atmosphere and enhances student engagement.
    • Journey Through Time
      The students on team Sunnyblue at Xi’an Jiaotong University wanted to display the history and culture of China in an entertaining, interactive way. And what better way to do this than by building a time machine that uses Kinect technology? The resulting application enables users to build an historically accurate 3-D representation of an ancient Chinese city. They choose architecture and decoration styles that are typical of specific dynasties as they create their own living museum. Next, the users’ avatars assume an historically appropriate appearance as they wander around the city and select period clothing, hairstyles, and makeup via Kinect's object recognition capabilities. After the creation of the setting and characters, the story takes shape. Users invite their online friends to their virtual city, sharing experiences as history comes alive.
    • A Night at the Opera
      No, team K-FLY from Xidian University, didn’t remake the classic Marx Brothers movie—they went one better and built a virtual platform for recreating the pageantry of the Peking Opera. By using Kinect’s depth-sensing and skeletal-tracking technologies, users’ avatars can apply the traditional Peking Opera makeup and then perform some of the best-loved songs from this treasured art form. This is good news for opera fans, who can upload their performances and share them with friends. The application provides a stage on which opera enthusiasts can display their talents, while its novel and vivid approach is certain to attract new devotees to this traditional art.

    Finalists from the  Kinect Pioneer ProgramFinalists from the Kinect Pioneer Program

    Microsoft Research Asia has been delighted with the success of the program. “Through the Kinect Pioneer Program, Chinese students have been given a chance to come into contact with the most cutting-edge technology from Microsoft. It also enables the creativity of Chinese university students to come to life,” says Lolan Song, senior director at Microsoft Research Asia. By developing applications that go beyond traditional games, Chinese students have shown where Kinect can grow and have established the groundwork for the use of Kinect technology in new areas of teaching, culture, and history.

    We’re excited to see how people are inspired to create and innovate by using Kinect technologies in ways we never imagined. Learn more about what we call the Kinect Effect.

    Guobin Wu, Program Manager, Microsoft Research Asia

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