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Microsoft Research Outreach Blog

The Microsoft Research Outreach 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.

  • Microsoft Research Outreach Blog

    Academics invited to create new Microsoft HoloLens experiences


    We are pleased to announce the Microsoft HoloLens Academic Research request for proposals (RFP), which will enable the academic community to join us in advancing the creation of new holographic computing experiences. The Microsoft HoloLens Academic RFP will award US$100,000 and two HoloLens development kits to academic institutions. Learn more about the RFP.

    How would you use Microsoft HoloLens?

    It has been exciting to see the public response to HoloLens—the world’s first fully untethered holographic computer, powered by Windows 10. There’s been palpable excitement at the prospect of mixing holograms with the real world to unlock all-new ways to create, communicate, work and play.

    Case Western Reserve University is exploring how HoloLens can transform learning across countless subjects, including those as complex as the human body.

    This emerging technology teems with opportunity, so we’ve issued this RFP to inspire the academic community to investigate the potential roles and applications for holographic computing in society. Additionally, we want to stimulate and advance academic research in mixed reality and encourage exploration of new possibilities in holographic computing. We expect that researchers will envision novel ways of using HoloLens—from interactively teaching students, to creating mixed-realty art installations, to manipulating holographic data to reveal new relationships…to who knows what.

    HoloLens is already making an impact across a variety of industries—from academia to architecture and construction. As a result, we invite proposals from any field. We welcome research that uses HoloLens to help solve difficult problems and contribute new insights in any domain—data visualization; pedagogy in STEM, medical and design education; communication and distributed collaboration; interactive art and experimental media; and psychology-related applications, including human-computer interactions.

    Join us on July 8 at 8:30 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time for our Faculty Summit keynote live webcast, when we will demonstrate more ways that HoloLens is helping people create, learn, communicate, collaborate, work and play. Request for proposal details are available at Please note that the application deadline is September 5, 2015.

    Jeannette Wing, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Research

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  • Microsoft Research Outreach Blog

    Joint lab marks 10 years of collaborative research in natural language processing


    The following is the first of three blogs on the contributions of the Microsoft Research Asia Joint Lab Program (JLP), which recently celebrated its tenth anniversary. The JLP brings together the resources of Microsoft Research and major Chinese universities, facilitating collaboration on state-of-the-art research, academic exchange, and talent incubation. This blog focuses on the Microsoft-Harbin Institute of Technology joint lab (Microsoft-HIT; officially the China Ministry of Education–Microsoft Key Laboratory of Natural Language Processing and Speech, Harbin Institute of Technology).

    Professor Sheng Li talks about joint labs at the Microsoft Research Asia Summer School, hosted by the Microsoft-HIT lab in 2005.Think of countries that have more than one official language. Which ones come to mind? Canada, with two official tongues? Switzerland with four? How about China, which has no less than eight official languages and more than 50 unofficial but widely spoken indigenous tongues. Each of these languages is cherished as a cultural treasure in China, but the multiplicity of minority languages seriously impedes economic, technological, scientific, and educational exchanges between minority groups and the Mandarin-speaking Han, who make up a majority of China’s population.

    Resolving this linguistic tangle is exactly the sort of challenge that prompted the creation of the Microsoft Research Asia Joint Lab Program (JLP), and it is the research focus of Microsoft-HIT. Since 2004, Microsoft-HIT researchers have published over 500 academic journal papers and, during just the last five years, presented more than 30 essays at such high-level events as the ACM-SIGIR Conference and the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI).

    The fruits of this labor can be seen in a Microsoft-HIT project called Minority Language Machine Translation. The project’s goal is to bridge the linguistic and cultural gulfs that separate different ethnic and national groups, both in China and around the world, and, potentially help preserve endangered minority languages. The project prototype is based on Microsoft Research’s Microsoft Translator Hub, a platform for machine translation between different languages. Utilizing the Microsoft Azure cloud-computing service, the prototype allows users to upload language and translation data and thus build a repository of lexical and grammatical information that can facilitate bilingual translation. While the work to date has focused on machine translation between Mandarin, English, and Uyghur, the underlying principles can be applied to translating between any two languages.

    But this project isn’t the only focus of Microsoft-HIT. The joint lab also aims to serve as a talent incubator, mentoring the young researchers who will be the leaders of tomorrow. Microsoft-HIT not only employs a large number of the university’s faculty and graduate students, it also holds an annual summer seminar on natural language processing. Since 2004, the summer seminar has provided more than 2,000 students an opportunity to develop their skills and laid the foundation for advanced research in language processing and speech technology.

    Professor Sheng Li, seen here at the 2014 Microsoft Research Asia Faculty Summit, was instrumental in establishing the Microsoft-HIT joint lab.
    Professor Sheng Li, seen here at the 2014 Microsoft Research Asia Faculty Summit, was instrumental in establishing the Microsoft-HIT joint lab.

    Although the Microsoft-HIT joint lab dates from 2004, it antecedents stretch back to last century, when, during the 1990s, Microsoft Research Asia worked with Harbin Institute of Technology professor Sheng Li to set up a laboratory on machine translation. In 2000, it became one of the first labs in the Microsoft Research Joint Lab Program and in 2004, the Chinese Ministry of Education (MOE) accorded official recognition to this joint effort, designating it as a MOE-Microsoft Key Laboratory.

    Professor Li, who is still deeply involved in the joint lab, credits it with having provided valuable experience to many young faculty members and promising students. He notes that many of these talented researchers have gone onto careers in related industries, but that a significant number choose to stay in the joint lab as either HIT professors or Microsoft researchers.

    With the past 10 years of this program as a guide, we look forward to the next decade and beyond, confident that the Microsoft Research-HIT joint lab will foster even greater talent cultivation and research collaboration.

    Tim Pan, Director of University Relations, Microsoft Research Asia,

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  • Microsoft Research Outreach Blog

    New Research Grants Aim at Combating Human Trafficking


    New Research Grants Aim at Combating Human Trafficking

    In December 2011, Dr. danah boyd and I were pleased to announce an RFP (request for proposal), funded by the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit and Microsoft Research, for projects that investigate the role of technology in the human trafficking of minors in the United States. In that announcement, we provided a framework for thinking about the intersections between technology and human trafficking. Today, June 13, 2012, I’m happy to announce that the recipients of these funds have been selected. After reviewing many promising proposals, we have allocated a total grant of US$185,000 among six proposals, each of which involves unique, imperative research. We are excited about the progress we expect to make in understanding the role of technology in human trafficking with the work of these amazing researchers. The recipients are:

    • Dr. Nicole Bryan, Dr. Ross Malaga, and Dr. Sasha Poucki of Montclair State University and Dr. Rachel Swaner of the Center for Court Innovation, for research on how networked technologies, including the Internet, mobile phones, and social media, are used by “johns” to procure children for sexual purposes.
    • Dr. Susan McIntyre of Calgary, Alberta; Dr. Dawne Clark of Mount Royal University; and Norm Lewis, research assistant at Mount Royal University, for research on the role of technology in the recruiting, buying, and selling of victims in the sex trafficking industry.
    • Professor Mary G. Leary of the Catholic University of America, for a comprehensive assessment of judicial opinions on child sex trafficking issued over the last 10 years.
    • Dr. Kimberly Mitchell of the University of New Hampshire Crimes Against Children Research Center, for research on technology’s role in facilitating child sex trafficking and understanding the benefits and obstacles for law enforcement.
    • Dr. Jennifer Musto of Rice University, for research on how law enforcement leverages the benefits—and overcomes the obstacles—of using technology in combating the trafficking of children for commercial sexual exploitation.
    • Dr. Anna W. Shavers, Dr. Dwayne Ball, Professor Matt Waite, Professor Sriyani Tidball, and Dr. David Keck of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, for research into identifying the clandestine language that is used in web advertising of child sex trafficking and conceptualizing intelligent software to identify such online advertisements.

    Today, human trafficking stands the fastest growing criminal industry in the world; in fact, this form of modern-day slavery has the dubious distinction of ranking alongside the trade in illegal arms as the second-largest international criminal industry, trailing only drug dealing. The research funded by these grants is sorely needed.
    It is very encouraging to see the significant actions taken against this heinous crime in the past year. Government agencies, NGOs, advocacy organizations, and corporations are working to increase awareness, research, and action in this area. One area all these organizations highlight is the need for more data and rigorous research on the extent of the human-trafficking problem, which includes understanding technology’s role in human trafficking. Unfortunately, there is a paucity of verifiable data on exactly how technology is abetting the crime—or how technology might be used to combat it.

    The Microsoft Digital Crime Unit and Microsoft Research hope to make a difference by funding research that will yield valuable data about the role that technology plays in child sex trafficking, with the ultimate goal of developing new disruptive approaches and innovations to address the problem. As a technology service provider, Microsoft has a stake in ensuring that its technologies are not contributing to crime, particularly crimes against children. We hope to use the findings and insights from these projects to drive advancements in the fight against trafficking.

    As the lead for Microsoft Research Connections’ initiative on Growing Women in Computing, I strongly believe that support of research into technology’s role in societal issues will excite a new generation of women about the potential of careers in computer science. Today, only approximately 1,800 women graduate from computer science programs in the United States; we need to inspire more young women to pursue careers in the field and make breakthroughs in areas that are relevant to women. Their research will not only help us understand how to begin addressing the crime of human trafficking, but will also inspire more young women to pursue careers where they can make a positive impact in society. These women will help us solve societal problems and use technology in ways we can’t imagine.

    I want to congratulate the recipients cited above, and I look forward to building a rigorous academic community of social scientists, economists, business researchers, legal researchers, psychologists, and computer scientist to help solve the scourge of human trafficking.

    Rane Johnson-Stempson, Principal Research Director for Education and Scholarly Communication, Microsoft Research Connections

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