Der deutsche Education Blog

April, 2011

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.

April, 2011

  • 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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    WorldWide Telescope Revolutionizes Astronomy 101

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    Recently, when I delivered my presentation, The Revolution in Astronomy Curricula Introduced by WorldWide Telescope (WWT), at INTED2011, I heard frequent comments from the audience that the variety of potential educational uses for WWT is "fascinating." The presentation was made possible by a collaboration between the Microsoft Research Connections' WorldWide Telescope group, the National Astronomical Observatories of Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC), and the Central China Normal University (CCNU). The successful reception of WWT at INTED2011 reminded me of all the wonderful things that WWT has enabled in China and throughout the world.

    To develop and grow a user community successfully, it is important to start by training the trainers. Focused on creating science educators for universities and high schools, CCNU is one of the most influential universities in education and pedagogy research in China. For more than two years, Microsoft Research Connections' WWT group and NAOC have been working with CCNU to integrate WWT into the astronomy research and education curriculum at CCNU. The development and outcome are reported in the papers, "Science Data Based Astronomy Education" and "The Revolution in Astronomy Curricula Introduced by WorldWide Telescope (WWT)" (upcoming at INTD2011 Publications).

    Educators from more than 40 institutes in China attended the first WWT Teachers’ Training Workshop, August 1–3, 2010, Beijing, China.

    Educators from more than 40 institutes in China attended the first WWT Teachers’ Training Workshop, August 1–3, 2010, Beijing, China.

    In addition to the efforts at CCNU, the WWT Teachers' Training Workshop 2010 was conducted jointly by CCNU, NAOC, and Microsoft Research in August 2010. Due to popular demand, we will jointly host the WWT Teachers' Training Workshop 2011 in China from July 21 to 24, 2011. The strategy to "train the trainers" has made the WWT user community grow exponentially in China.

    The success at CCNU is just one example of how the WorldWide Telescope program helps Microsoft Research Connections engage with enthusiastic scientists worldwide. This particular long-term collaboration is succeeding beyond our original expectations for everyone involved in the project.

    For example:

    • Due to her innovative work with WWT, Dr. Cuilan Qiao (our principle investigator at CCNU), received her tenured position last year and is changing the education paradigm by integrating digital information technologies with the science curricula.
    • As a result of the contributions he has made to science outreach by using WWT during the last three years, Dr. Chenzhou Cui at NAOC has been assigned by the NAOC to be in charge of developing the Science Outreach Plan for the observatory's twelfth Five-Year Plan. This is an extraordinary honor for a young Chinese scientist.
    • I have been invited by to become an honorary professor at CCNU, and I will accept this honor on behalf of all of us at Microsoft Research.

    Next month, I will be in Moscow to co-host the workshop, WWT for Gagarin Celebration and Beyond, with Microsoft Russia and Moscow State University. I'm looking forward to another experience of using WWT to help empower the research and academic communities in the advancement of science and education.

    Note: It would be an omission to overlook the substantial impression that WWT has made in the astronomy and science education communities in the United States as well. Look for a future blog in which my team members and I commemorate the three-year anniversary of the WorldWide Telescope.

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     —Yan Xu, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections

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    Springtime in Paris and Software Is in the Air

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    Software Summit 2011 in ParisWhat could be better than Paris on a spring day?  How about Paris on a spring day at the inaugural Software Summit sponsored by Microsoft Research?

    Yes, I'm here at the Microsoft Le Campus in Issy-les-Moulineaux, just southwest of central Paris, along with more than 200 of the foremost figures in the European computer-science community.  The Summit underscores the importance of European research and innovation and brings together thought leaders from Europe's high-powered industrial research, academic, and the scientific communities. With so much intellectual wattage on hand, we might need to dim the house lights. Seriously, I'm looking forward to a stimulating three days of panels, workshops, and demos on the state of software research and development.

    Andrew Herbert, chairman of Microsoft Research EMEA, is serving as the Summit host, and Judith Bishop, director of Computer Science for Microsoft Research Connections, is the program chair for the event.

    I'm honored to present one of the event's four keynote addresses, joining Ken Wood, deputy managing director of Microsoft Research Cambridge and head of the Computer-Mediated Living group; Wolfram Schulte, principal researcher and founding manager of the Research in Software Engineering team at Microsoft Research Redmond; and Brendan Eich, chief technical officer of the Mozilla Corp. and creator of the JavaScript scripting language. 

    One of the first-day highlights of the Summit was an update on the Kinect for Windows SDK (software development kit) to be released this spring. Echoing yesterday's announcement at the MIX developer conference in Las Vegas, we unveiled three key features of the upcoming Kinect for Windows SDK: robust skeletal tracking, advanced audio capabilities, and XYZ depth camera.  We also announced the launch of a new website for the SDK, where you can subscribe to a newsfeed and be notified as soon as the SDK is available for download. Our hope is that this "starter kit" for application developers will make it easier for the academic research and enthusiast communities to create even richer experiences using Kinect technology. 

    I'm also thrilled to report here on many of the ground-breaking tools and technologies being featured at the Summit, among them F#, a simple and efficient programming language ideal for data-rich, concurrent, and algorithmic development; Pex4fun, a game that awards points for writing code; Project Hawaii, a venture that is exploring how to leverage the cloud to enhance the use of smartphones; and Academic Search, a free search engine that provides quick information about academic researchers' papers, conferences, and journals.

    Above all, I want to stress that the Summit underlines Microsoft Research's long-term commitment to collaboration with the academic and scientific community in Europe, which is an essential part of our ongoing efforts to advance computer science and technology. In that regard, I would especially like to point out the role of Microsoft Research Cambridge, which is home to more 150 dedicated, innovation-minded researchers and supports over 100 Ph.D. students, has hosted 465 student interns over the past seven years, and is currently sponsoring 25 active collaborative research projects. I also want to call out Microsoft Research's three joint research institutes—at the University of Trento, INRIA, and the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre—as well as the European Microsoft Innovation Center in Aachen, Germany, and the new Microsoft Cloud Computing and Interoperability Center, which opened in Brussels just last month.

    I'll be back shortly with more news from the Summit.  Now, however, I've got to polish that keynote address.

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     —Tony Hey, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Research Connections

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