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June, 2012

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, 2012

  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Conference in Beijing Spotlights Programming Languages

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    Performance, architecture, execution, bugs, and programs: these words are heard time and again in the context of a major computer science conference. So it was in Beijing this month at PLDI 2012, the conference on Programming Language Design and Implementation. Terminology and accompanying innovative ideas flew fast and furious as 600 academics, researchers from industry, and students gathered to discuss the latest advances in this fundamental field. PLDI is organized by ACM SIGPLAN (the Association of Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Programming Languages).

    Pictured from left to right: Lolan Song, Feng Zhaio, Jan Vitek, Haibo Lin, and Judith Bishop

    Pictured from left to right: Lolan Song, Feng Zhao, Jan Vitek, Haibo Lin, and Judith Bishop

    Although this was the thirty-third PLDI conference, it was the first to be held in Asia. Microsoft Research was proud to be the Gold Sponsor of the conference, and to celebrate the occasion, we organized a special open house to introduce participants to the work that goes on in our labs. Dr. Feng Zhao welcomed visitors to the beautiful Microsoft Research Asia lab with an overview of the work of the Beijing-based facility. The participants were then invited to a “DemoFest,” where 14 projects were on display: 13 from Microsoft Research labs around the world, and one from Tsinghua University. Many of these demos showcased the latest ideas about concurrency and the cloud, as well as the benefits of program analysis. There were also several projects illustrating end-user programming, such as TouchDevelop from Redmond and ClippyScript from Asia. See the full list of demos.

    With hundreds of computer science academics and students gathered together, PLDI presented a great opportunity to engage in discussion of the hands-on work of writing the compilers and creating the tools that make today’s glitzy devices and snazzy apps possible. Modern platforms and applications demand highly sophisticated optimizing compilers and analysis tools, and the advent of new processor technologies, such as multiple cores, GPUs, and mobile platforms, along with the increasing sophistication of development tools, all require mastery of cutting-edge compiler and code generation technologies. PLDI was the ideal place to connect with students who are drawn to such computer science specialties as hardware specific optimizations, whole program analysis, profile framework and profile driven optimization, working set optimization, static alias analysis, optimized code debugging, incremental re-compilation, register allocation, code security, or SIMD and GPU code generation, vectorization, and parallelization.

    Sriram Rajamani explains his poster.
    Sriram Rajamani explains his poster.

    Aside from presenting demos and connecting with friends old and new, Microsoft Research personnel also presented six papers and a tutorial that exemplify the high quality of our research. In addition, Microsoft researcher Rustan Leino and his colleagues were honored for having presented the most influential paper 10 years ago at PLDI 2002. That paper marked a turning point in the field of static checking, describing pragmatic design decisions that promote practicality over completeness. The techniques are now also widely used in various forms in Microsoft’s development tools—notably as part of Code Contracts, which ships with Microsoft Visual Studio.

    I greatly appreciated the assistance of our colleagues at Microsoft Research Asia in handling all of the local logistics, especially Lolan Song's team, as well as Stewart Tansley from my team.

    With so much science in my head, a quiet walk out to the Beijing’s Olympic Park was a great way to unwind. Beijing and PLDI certainly have a lot to offer!

    Judith Bishop, Director of Computer Science, Microsoft Research Connections

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    The Cloud Rains More Services on Project Hawaii

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    What do you think of when you hear "Hawaii"? Colorful shirts, hula dancers, mai tais on a sunny beach? Well, all those things are nice, but they can’t hold a candle to the goodies that are coming out of Microsoft Research’s Project Hawaii, which extends the Windows Phone with the power of the cloud. The smartphone provides the sensors, mobility, and data; the cloud provides powerful algorithms to enable scenarios that would otherwise not be possible. Project Hawaii effectively makes the cloud a natural extension of the smartphone.

    This week, we’ve added four more cloud services to Project Hawaii’s existing line-up, namely:

    • Key value pair, which enables the storage of any data easily and quickly in the cloud
    • Translation, which, well, translates from one language to another
    • Text to speech, which does just what its name implies
    • Path prediction, which narrows location searches based on the direction of travel

    These new cloud services, together with the existing ones for relay, rendezvous, OCR, and speech to text, make Project Hawaii an even more potent framework for developing cool Windows Phone apps.

    Project Hawaii has been in the hands of talented students at a number of universities across the world for more than a year now, and these young coders have developed some very interesting and useful apps on the Windows Phone. For instance, a student from Temple University created an app to control service robots by using Project Hawaii’s relay service.

    Then there is MonsterGG, a game developed by students at Singapore Management University, which uses Project Hawaii’s relay and rendezvous services, together with Windows Azure storage.

    Students from Egypt-Japan University of Science and Technology put Project Hawaii to use in assisting the disabled, by developing an app that helps the blind and visually impaired navigate streets.

    Eager to try your hand at developing apps with Project Hawaii? Then download the software development kit (SDK).

    Arjmand Samuel, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections

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    New Forum Promotes Computer Science and Mathematics

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    Each year, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) presents the A.M. Turing Award, widely considered the “Nobel Prize of computer science.” As ACM’s European chairman, I had the privilege of signing an agreement that will extend the influence of Turing Award recipients in the years ahead. The agreement established the Heidelberg Laureate Forum, which will bring together Turing Award recipients and winners of the Abel Prize and Fields Medal, regarded as the most prestigious honors in mathematics, for an annual meeting with a select group of highly talented young researchers.

    The agreement about the establishment of the Heidelberg Laureate Forum was signed by the parties involved at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters on May 22, 2012. Pictured left to right, seated: Dr. Fabrizio Gagliardi, Professor Ingrid Daubechies, and Professor Øivind Andersen. Standing: Professor Nils Chr. Stenseth, Dr. Klaus Tschira, and H.E. Germany Ambassador Detlev Rünger. (Photo: Eirik Furu Baardsen)

    The agreement about the establishment of the Heidelberg Laureate Forum was signed by the parties involved at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters on May 22, 2012. Pictured left to right, seated: Dr. Fabrizio Gagliardi, Professor Ingrid Daubechies, and Professor Øivind Andersen. Standing: Professor Nils Chr. Stenseth, Dr. Klaus Tschira, and H.E. Germany Ambassador Detlev Rünger. (Photo: Eirik Furu Baardsen)

    The first meeting of the Heidelberg Laureate Forum will take place in September 2013, and it promises to be a stimulating venue for new ideas. As Klaus Tschira, the head of the eponymous Klaus Tschira Foundation (one of the organizations behind the forum) has observed, “Meeting with the scientific leaders of mathematics and computer science will be extremely inspiring and encouraging for the young scientists.”

    I’m very enthusiastic about this new forum because the relationships and interactions that can develop among the participants will benefit both the new generation of researchers and ACM Turing recipients. They will have the ability to share ideas, insights, and experiences through formal sessions and informal discussions, which are essential elements in the collaboration process that sustains research in computing science.

    Microsoft Research is proud of our long-time links with ACM and of the many Microsoft researchers who are ACM fellows and award recipients. We are excited about the new forum and look forward to working with ACM and other organizations to promote the next generation of computer scientists.

    Fabrizio Gagliardi, Director, Microsoft Research Connections EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa)

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