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March, 2013

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.

March, 2013

  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Kinect Fusion Boosts Kinect for Windows SDK Update

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    On Monday, March 18, 2013, Microsoft rolled out the latest release of the Kinect for Windows software development kit (SDK). This represents the largest update to the technology since the SDK was first commercially released in February last year, and it includes the Kinect Fusion technology that originated in Microsoft Research.

    Kinect Fusion, an implementation of Microsoft Research’s 3-D surface reconstruction technology, can create highly accurate 3-D renderings of people and objects in real time.
    Kinect Fusion, an implementation of Microsoft Research’s 3-D surface reconstruction technology, can create highly accurate 3-D renderings of people and objects in real time.

    The new release has a number of features that will benefit the academic and research community:

    • Kinect Interactions – A built-in gesture recognizer, Kinect Interactions provides tools that enable the creation of intuitive, smooth, and polished applications that are based on the way people naturally move and gesture. These new tools should spur even more rapid development of Kinect for Windows-based natural user interface (NUI) applications that enable people to interact with their computers and devices through gestures and speech.
    • Kinect Fusion – A commercially-supported implementation of Microsoft Research’s 3-D surface reconstruction technology, Kinect Fusion merges multiple snapshots from the Kinect for Windows sensor to create accurate, full, 3-D renderings of people and objects affordably and in real time. Developers and researchers have been eagerly anticipating the availability of this technology since it was first shown at the ACM SIGGRAPH research conference in August 2011.
    • New OpenCV and MATLAB samples – These graphics and math tools, frequently used in academic research and advanced application development, should be a welcome addition and useful resource for those getting started with Kinect for Windows.

    Another helpful development: earlier this month, Kinect for Windows announced broader availability of academic pricing through Microsoft Authorized Educational Resellers (AERs). Most of these resellers can now offer academic pricing directly to educational institutions; academic researchers; and students, faculty, and staff of public or private K-12 schools, vocational schools, junior colleges, colleges, universities, and scientific or technical institutions. Academic pricing on the Kinect for Windows sensor is currently available through AERs in the United States, Taiwan, and Hong Kong SAR.
     
    We eagerly look forward to a seeing what the academic community does with the new features!

    Stewart Tansley, Director, Microsoft Research Connections
    Kenji Takeda, Solutions Architect and Technical Manager, Microsoft Research Connections EMEA

     

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    Computerworld Honors Microsoft Research for Breakthroughs in Pneumonia and HIV

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    Today is a proud day for Microsoft Research Connections and our academic collaborators, as two of our research efforts have been named 2013 IDG's Computerworld Honors Program Laureates. The Computerworld Honors program, founded in 1988, recognizes organizations and individuals who have used information technology to promote positive social, economic, and educational change. The program judges reviewed more than 700 nominations this year to select 269 Laureates from 29 countries. Microsoft Research is being honored for our collaborative work on combatting scourges that affect millions around the world: pneumonia and HIV infection.

    Working in collaboration with the University of Oxford, our research strives to make pneumonia vaccine more effective.
    Working in collaboration with the University of Oxford, our research strives to make pneumonia vaccine more effective.

    Pneumonia persists as a leading cause of death in children worldwide, despite the availability of a vaccine. To be properly vaccinated against the disease, children must receive a series of three shots over a period of several months. The research for which we’re being honored, “Adjusting Pneumonia Vaccination Periods to Save Lives,” strives to make vaccination more effective by changing the timing of the shots. In collaboration with the University of Oxford, we have developed software that can be used to create and deploy clinical trial support infrastructure in a fraction of the time, at a fraction of the cost, of conventional methods. The system can collect well-defined and standardized data from multiple sources; however, the greater benefit is its ability to combine data simply and efficiently, enabling large-scale data analysis. Such analysis is now being used by the Oxford Vaccine Group to evaluate the effectiveness of revised schedules of immunization.

    Our HIV program involves support of the efforts of the Ragon Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital to create an effective HIV immunization agent.
    Our HIV program involves support of the efforts of the Ragon Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital to create an effective HIV immunization agent.

    HIV infection remains another prolific killer, taking the lives of approximately 5,000 people a day—despite the emergence of antiviral therapies that can control, but not cure, the disease. Until a cure is found, the best hope in controlling HIV infection lies in creating an effective vaccine. This is why our second honored program, “Uncovering New Ways the Human Immune System Fights HIV,” involves support for the efforts of the Ragon Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital to create an effective HIV immunization agent. In collaboration with South African healthcare workers, the Ragon Institute has recruited large numbers of South African HIV-positive patients, whose blood samples enable studies of the body’s defense mechanisms in the laboratory. Joining the Ragon Institute in this effort are the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) and the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV (K-RITH). Microsoft Research is working with the Ragon Institute to quantify how the immune system attacks various fragments of HIV—data that we hope will, one day, lead to a vaccine.

    These two global research programs not only capture the very essence of our mission at Microsoft Research Connections: to collaborate with the world’s top academic researchers and institutions to develop technologies that fuel data-intensive scientific, but also help Microsoft Research improve “Big Data” algorithms to further advance Microsoft products. We look forward to the presentation at The Computerworld Honors Laureate Ceremony and Awards Gala at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C., on June 3, 2013. 

    Tony Hey, Vice President of Microsoft Research Connections

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    ChronoZoom Named Top Educational Resource at 2013 SXSW Interactive

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    When Microsoft Research teamed up with the University of California Berkeley to create a digital tool for exploring the history of everything, we knew we had the potential to build a killer educational app. After all, a tool that can reveal the cross-currents of history, revealing the interdependencies that cut across disciplines, geographies, and cultures, would offer a major advance in the understanding of Big History—the history of not just humanity, but of life, Earth and, ultimately, the cosmos. Moreover, it would provide researchers with a tool to derive unique insights based on multidisciplinary connections between vastly disparate data sets.

    ChronoZoom wins the 2013 SXSW Interactive Award for Education

    On March 12, the resulting tool, ChronoZoom—a dynamic, zoomable timeline that starts with Big Bang and ends with modern history—won first prize in the Educational Resources category of the 2013 SXSW Interactive Awards. As described on the SXSW website, the SXSW Interactive Awards competition “uncovers the best new digital work, from mobile and tablet apps to websites and installations, while celebrating those who are building tomorrow's interactive trends.”

    ChronoZoom was developed to make time relationships between different studies of history clear and vivid. In the process, it provides a framework for exploring related electronic resources. It thus serves as a “master timeline,” tying together all kinds of specialized timelines and electronic resources, and aspires to bridge the gap between humanities and the sciences and to bring together and unify all knowledge of the past. With the planned addition of in-browser content and authoring tools, we hope to enable educators and researchers to build timelines; explore rich, multidisciplinary contextual spaces; and to tell and share stories based on authoritative data.

    Donald Brinkman, Roland Saekow, and Michael Zyskowski accept the 2013 SXSW Interactive Award for Education
    Donald Brinkman, Roland Saekow, and Michael Zyskowski accept the 2013 SXSW Interactive Award for Education 

    The prestigious SXSW Interactive Award for Education recognizes the educational value of this amazing open-source product. Moreover, it honors the multidisciplinary team that came together to make ChronoZoom a reality: software engineers, program managers, and project leaders at Microsoft Research Connections in Redmond, Washington, and students and professors at Moscow State University in Russia and at UC Berkeley and University of Washington in the United States. This distributed team developed cutting-edge HTML5 and JavaScript code and implemented services on Windows Azure to create a rich, visual database full of historical events and timelines.

    The ChronoZoom project is part of the Outercurve Foundation’s Research Accelerators Gallery. The Outercurve Foundation, a non-profit, open-source foundation, provides software IP management and project development governance to 22 open-source projects.  Developers can get involved by visiting the source code project on GitHub.

    In his acceptance speech, Michael Zyskowski dedicated the award to Lee Dirks, who strongly believed in and supported the ChronoZoom project.

    I encourage you to experience the power of ChronoZoom for yourself. But be forewarned—it can be addictive!

    Donald Brinkman, Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections


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