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July, 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.

July, 2012

  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    David Breashears Brings the Himalayan Region to Life

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    The participants in the 2012 Microsoft Research Faculty Summit gained new appreciation for the changes facing the globe as David Breashears navigated the massive archive of photographic data that his team has gathered in many climbs through the Himalaya Mountains. We came away with a vivid understanding of how far glaciers have retreated in these mountains over the past 100 years.

    Who better than David Breashears to bring the story to life through the means of computing? Filmmaker, adventurer, and mountaineer David Breashears has brought nature to life on film for more than 30 years. He is also the founder and executive director of GlacierWorks.

    Archival photos and GlacierWorks imagery of the Himalaya Mountains demonstrate the impact that climate change is having on the glaciers and river systems of Asia.
    Archival photos and GlacierWorks imagery of the Himalaya Mountains demonstrate the impact that climate change is having on the glaciers and river systems of Asia.

    David lives a life of adventure most of us only dream about. He has led more than 40 expeditions to the Himalayan region and worked on dozens of documentary film projects since 1979. David has reached the summit of Mount Everest five times! He was also producer, director, and expedition leader for Everest, one of the most successful IMAX films ever made. He has led, and continues to lead, a fascinating life.

    David’s keynote focused on his work with GlacierWorks, a non-profit organization that uses art and science to vividly document how the Himalayan glaciers are changing before our very eyes. The Himalaya Mountains are home to some of the world’s most beautiful peaks and thousands of high-altitude glaciers. The glaciers provide seasonal water flows to rivers throughout Asia. These precious flows have been disappearing at an alarming rate, however.

    Since 2007, GlacierWorks teams have embarked on 10 expeditions, each carefully retracing the steps of early mountain photographers. Meticulously captured images match their predecessors’ work. Comparing the images, GlacierWorks identified an alarming loss of ice in the region.

    David and his team are building a resource to share their information with students. They have been collaborating with Microsoft Research to create an immersive Internet experience that enables a richer interaction with GlacierWorks’ massive photographic database. At the heart of this collaboration is Rich Interactive Narratives (RIN). RIN combines traditional forms of storytelling with new visualization technologies to create compelling interactive digital narratives.

    For the Himalayas project, the team is combining archival media and GlacierWorks imagery to demonstrate the impact that climate change is having on the glaciers and river systems of Asia. The team is hopeful that an engaging and educational interactive experience will appeal to today’s students, and inspire them to investigate climate change further.

    We have made David Breashears' keynote available online. I encourage you to view this incredible presentation for yourself. You can also find more information about Breashears and his work through these resources:

    Harold Javid, Director, The Americas, Microsoft Research Connections

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    Information at Your Programming Fingertips

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    Information at Your Programming FingertipsA growing trend in both the theory and practice of programming is the interaction with rich information spaces. This trend derives from the ever-increasing need to integrate programming with large, heterogeneous, connected, richly structured, streaming, evolving, or probabilistic information sources—be they databases, web services, or large‐scale, cloud‐based data analyses. However, as the complexity of programs and information structures increases, the coupling between the two is far from seamless, requiring many manual programming and modeling efforts. These manual processes often lead to brittle programs and thwart the easy application of novel compiler technologies and novel information mastering methods.

    Fortunately, the Semantic Web provides rich means for ad‐hoc information structuring with querying and type-inference possibilities, while novel programming languages, like LINQ and F#, lower the entry bar to the information-rich world for the developer. In addition, innovative information mastering methods, such as Hadoop and Dryad, are frequently positioned as functional paradigms, and huge potential exists to combine information‐rich sources with both scalable and traditional programming models.

    These approaches were on display this May at the Spring Mindswap in St. Goar, Germany, where researchers from around the world examined information spaces from the perspective of programming, looking for fresh insights into the promise and challenges of the design and applicability of the Semantic Web and new data-representation techniques. This workshop described the state of the art, elucidated the challenges that are required to bridge the gap between current information management and current programming language technology, and delineated concrete ways by which providers of information spaces can better serve the needs of programming languages, and vice‐versa. Of particular interest were the breakout sessions on three critical issues: (1) the handling of data versus schema, (2) the effect of information-rich programming on types in programming languages, and (3) the need to consider data quality. We would like to extend our thanks to Professor Steffen Staab of the University of Koblenz-Landau, who was the primary organizer of the Spring Mindswap.

    Now, we want to invite the community to extend these discussions at the First Workshop on Programming the Semantic Web, which will be offered as part of the International Semantic Web Conference in Boston this November. In particular, we invite the submission of papers that discuss and promote the programming facet of the Semantic Web. Abstracts should be submitted by July 24, with papers due by July 31; further submission information can be found on the workshop website.

    Evelyne Viegas, Director of Semantic Computing, Microsoft Research, and Don Syme, Principal Researcher, Microsoft Research Cambridge

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    Tune in to the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit 2012

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     Join us online for the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit

    What are the big challenges and hot trends in computer science research? How are the academic community and Microsoft Research working collaboratively to use computing to solve some of the world’s most intractable problems? On July 16 and 17, 400 elite academic investigators will explore these questions with Microsoft researchers during the annual Microsoft Research Faculty Summit in Redmond, Washington.

    But you don’t have to be in Redmond to benefit from this outstanding event. Selected keynotes and panel discussions will be streamed live from the Microsoft Conference Center, and engaging, informative live interviews with top researchers will be broadcast from Microsoft Studios. You can tune in to the live, streaming broadcasts from 9:00 A.M. to 1:30 P.M. Pacific Time (12:00 P.M. to 4:30 P.M. Eastern Time) on the Virtual Event page. And don’t miss the special closing keynote from David Breashears, “Rivers of Ice: Vanishing Glaciers of the Greater Himalaya,” on July 17 at 4:30 P.M. Pacific Time (7:30 P.M. Eastern Time).  

    Please join us as we explore trends in data-intensive, data-driven research—what we like to call “big data, big insights”—and as we probe the growing movement toward blending virtual and physical reality through advances in natural user interface. Learn about developments in social media, Internet governance, and the use of technology to combat criminal activity. And see how technology is impacting teaching and the creation of rich interactive narratives. What’s more, you can participate by tweeting your questions and comments during the live broadcasts by using the Twitter hashtag #FacSumm.

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    The Microsoft Research Faculty Summit is dedicated to expanding the boundaries of using technological development to solve real-world problems, whether social or scientific. From harnessing the power of data for analysis and insights, to algorithms for managing election data and detecting malware, to future digital homes and natural user interfaces, software is experiencing rapid change. The 2012 Microsoft Research Faculty Summit unites academic researchers, educators, and Microsoft researchers, product group engineers, and software architects to explore these and other new opportunities and challenges in computer science research—and you can be part of this exciting event via the live, streaming broadcasts.

    So mark your calendar and clean your display screen: the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit 2012 is headed to a device near you.

    Harold Javid, Director, The Americas, Microsoft Research Connections

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