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June, 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.

June, 2011

  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Treasured Chinese Painting Comes to Life Through Technology

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    Explore how a treasured Chinese painting comes to life through technology

    As Chinese citizens celebrate Chinese Cultural Heritage Day, an annual event that takes place on the second Saturday in June, thousands will likely take a virtual walk along a river and a stroll through time, as they digitally explore one of their country’s most famous paintings. Courtesy of a collaborative effort among Microsoft Research Asia, the Beijing Palace Museum, and Peking University, visitors to the museum can experience a detailed, interactive digital representation of Along the River during the Qing-Ming Festival, one of China’s most treasured scroll paintings.

    The centuries-old, original ink-on-silk painting is only rarely displayed publicly; most of the time it’s safely stored for preservation. A scroll that measures more than 5 meters long and approximately 25 centimeters high when completely unfurled, it depicts a variety of panoramas of daily life in the Northern Song Dynasty (960 to 1127): from farmers in their fields, to boatmen and shopkeepers plying their trades, to government officials collecting taxes. Unlike traditional Western paintings, which have a single focus, Along the River during the Qing-Ming Festival employs the “moving focus” technique of Chinese scroll painting, which presents multiple focal points as the viewer works his or her way down the scroll.

    The three-dimensional (3-D) digital representation of the painting allows viewers to pan, zoom, and pause as they explore the richly detailed artwork by using a multi-touch screen. As viewers navigate the digital painting, the software uses their actions to calculate their viewpoint. Enhancing the experience, stereophonic audio has been added, with hundreds of voices creating dialogues that track to the actions in the painting. The scripts were created by experts from the Beijing Palace Museum, and the dialogue uses a dialect of Mandarin that reflects the speech of the Northern Song Dynasty. The audio also includes ambient sounds of nature and city life, linked to the corresponding place in the painting.

    This tour-de-force of software development and 3-D modeling was the work of Ying-Qing Xu, a lead researcher with Microsoft Research Asia in Beijing, who developed the detailed, interactive, and multi-layered digital rendition of the painting by using annotated gigapixel images and HD View on a Microsoft Silverlight platform. This work is part of Microsoft Research’s eHeritage project, which facilitates collaborative initiatives between Microsoft Research and academia that use technology to preserve and display the cultural heritage of the Asia-Pacific region.

    The digital exhibition is open daily to the public for free, allowing visitors to experience a period of China in a way that can help them better understand ancient Chinese culture and heritage. “This is having a profound effect on museums globally and putting Beijing firmly on the map of cutting-edge development,” said Chui Hu, former director of information center at the Palace Museum in Beijing.

    —Xin Ma, University Relations Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections Asia

     

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    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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