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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.

  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    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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    New Research Grants Aim at Combating Human Trafficking

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    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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