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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.

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    Latin American Workshop Explores Research Challenges and Collaboration Opportunities

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    Fifty Latin American researchers and former Microsoft Research interns and Fellows gathered at the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington, in July to participate in the LATAM Workshop. The goals of this research workshop: share research challenges and results and seek opportunities to work together across the Latin American region.

    Fifty Latin American researchers and former Microsoft Research interns and Fellows gathered at the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington, in July to participate in the LATAM Workshop.

    The event included presentations from representatives from the Microsoft Research-FAPESP Institute for IT Research in São Paulo, Brazil, and the Latin American and Caribbean Collaborative ICT Research (LACCIR) Federation. Representatives from Microsoft Research also participated in discussions and delivered presentations about advances in computing that can be applied to research challenges. The topics of this year’s event focused on how the computer sciences can be applied to micro-economies, health and wellbeing, climate change, bioenergy, biodiversity, and tropical ecosystems.

    “The Latin American Workshop played a significant role in sharing our research findings and perspectives with each other; not only with researchers from our region but also with colleagues from Microsoft Research,” said Domingo Mery, a professor from Catholic University of Chile and conference presenter. “This is an excellent way to nurture collaboration in Latin America and the Caribbean. Many thanks for this opportunity!”

    While all of the presentations were impressive, we have chosen two to highlight here today: “The Brazilian Biodiversity Database and Information System (SinBiota),” presented by Tiago Egger Moellwald Duque Estrada, Instituto Virtual da Biodiversidade, Programa Biota/FAPESP; and “Live Andes (Advanced Network for the Distribution of Endangered Species): A New Tool for Wildlife Conservation,” presented by Cristian Bonacic, associate professor, Ecosystems and Environment Department, Catholic University of Chile, Chile.

    Session Highlight: The Brazilian Biodiversity Database and Information System: SinBiota

    The BIOTA/FAPESP program (São Paulo’s State Foundation for Research Funding) was created 10 years ago to provide support for the São Paulo State Government to achieve the targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity. One of the essential components of the BIOTA/FAPESP program is the information system called SinBiota. This is a new version (currently prototype) of the first SinBiota system. It runs on Microsoft Silverlight, and uses Bing maps to provide environmental data visualization.

    The system has not been significantly upgraded in its first 10 years. With the renovation of the Biota/FAPESP program, a new system is needed to fulfill the demands of researchers, educators, NGOs, and governmental agencies.
    “The workshop was an invaluable opportunity for researchers from São Paulo and their students to interact with colleagues from LACCIR and scientists from Microsoft Research,” said Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, scientific director, FAPESP. “We expect that high-impact scientific collaboration will follow.”

    Session Highlight: Live ANDES (Advanced Network for the Distribution of Endangered Species): A New Tool for Wildlife Conservation
    South America is home to some of the richest and most diverse ecosystems in the world. However, many species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians in these ecosystems are in danger of extinction. Additionally, vast areas of land have been minimally explored by scientists to assess the population status of various species and to identify unknown species. Scientists and conservationists can greatly improve their understanding of endangered species through access to reports about the local wildlife from residents of these regions.

    ICT tools that citizens can use in natural areas could provide conservation scientists with vital information to help them protect wildlife. The Live ANDES platform, which is a citizen science project, is helping to create a global conservation community in South America. Citizens can upload and share wildlife data (such as notes, videos, and audio of endangered species) with scientists. This project enables local residents to contribute to biodiversity conservation by providing scientists with much-needed wildlife data.

    This platform is currently available in beta version and enables users to share information online. The platform was built on the Microsoft .NET Framework and the web solution uses technologies such as ASP.NET MVC, Bing Map Services, Windows Communication Foundation data services, Microsoft SQL Server 2008, the ADO.NET Entity Framework, and LINQ. The mobile solution is based on the .NET Compact Framework for Windows Phone 7.

    In a second version of Live ANDES, the project team will focus on data sharing among academics and policy makers, which requires more advanced tools for assessing quality data and for data analysis, as well as user profiles that provide more details.

    Graduate Student Participation

    The response to these and other sessions was overwhelmingly positive. A key factor contributing to the workshop’s success was the participation of 20 graduate students who have worked as interns or Fellows at Microsoft Research. Some were Microsoft Research alumni and others are currently working with Microsoft Research. All were actively involved in research and the workshop exchanges.

    This workshop was a wonderful opportunity for these students. Attending the workshop will help them with their research, and it will also help broaden their understanding of a wide range of technologies and approaches that will, in turn, support the advancement of their careers. The workshop also gave alumni a chance to reconnect and catch up with their Microsoft Research mentors.


    Juliana Salles, Senior Research Program Manager; Harold Javid, Director, Americas/ANZ Regional Programs; and Jaime Puente, Director, Latin America and Caribbean

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    Barcelona-Cambridge Collaboration Celebrates its First PhD Success

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    Collaboration can be a great catalyst for new ideas. Whether working with colleagues from down the hall or a team from another continent, we have found that working together strengthens our ideas. A prime example is the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre – Microsoft Research Centre in Barcelona, Spain. Microsoft Research Cambridge began collaborating with the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC) in 2006. We formalized the relationship with the establishment of the BSC – Microsoft Research Centre in January 2008. The Centre focuses on the design and interaction of future microprocessors and software for the mobile and desktop market segments.

    The BSC – Microsoft Research Centre is home to a talented group of students who are working towards their PhDs and who bring their creativity and enthusiasm to tackle tomorrow’s problems. “I am very happy that the Centre is a model of open research,” said Centre director Mateo Valero. “We share our findings with the community and all of our software and applications are available for download at our website.”

    The program has an extremely young team with more than 15 PhD candidates, Valero explained. Leading the student group was Ferad Zyulkyarov, who is at the forefront of Transactional Memory (TM) research. Working under the supervision of Valero, and his colleagues Osman Unsal and Adrián Cristal, Zyulkyarov investigated how this new approach to multi-core programming could make software development much easier for future computer architectures.

    Ferad Zyulkyarov defends his thesis in Barcelona

    Ferad Zyulkyarov defends his thesis in Barcelona

    A Different Point of View

    Previous TM research had focused on evaluating and improving TM implementations. Zyulkyarov took a unique approach to the problem, looking at it from the programmer’s point of view. As part of his thesis, Zyulkyarov developed one of the first real-world TM applications: a rewrite of the Quake Game Server that replaced traditional memory locks with TM atomic blocks. This makes life much easier for the programmer, potentially transforming multi-core software development for the future.

    Zyulkyarov encountered some obstacles during his project. For example, he had to develop a better debugger and profiling support, neither of which existed before he created them. When he reviewed the performance of the core server code, Zyulkyarov could see the potential for TM. There is still some optimization work to be done, but the potential is there.

    During the project, Zyulkyarov collaborated closely with Tim Harris, senior researcher, Systems and Networking Group, Microsoft Research Cambridge. Harris is proud of the work Zyulkyarov accomplished during their time together. “It’s great to see Ferad’s work come to fruition,” Harris said. “He’s made substantial contributions to the development of programming tools for using TM, and I hope that we’ll now be able to apply these ideas to other parts of the multi-core challenge.”

    The First of Many PhDs from Barcelona

    The first of the 15 students to receive his PhD, and now at Intel, Zyulkyarov is just one example of the young talent being fostered through the BSC – Microsoft Research Centre, driving the industry to tackle some of its most challenging problems. “In the five years since we have started, the Centre has matured quite a lot, and this is the first fruit of the collaboration with BSC and Microsoft Research,” Valero said, adding he is especially grateful to Harris for serving as Ferad’s mentor. “I know that more [success stories] will follow soon,” he added.

    I am very glad—thinking back to my first visit to BSC five years ago—in seeing how far we came. This is the result of all the energy and enthusiasm we have all put together in the enterprise. This is only the first of a successful series of PhD awards, which we will see taking place in the next few years.

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

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    Students Envision the Future at Russian Summer School

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    As the saying goes, “Seeing is believing.” But with computers, that’s only half the story. Cameras are becoming an ever-present part of our world. They are built into cell phones and laptops, and dot the landscape in storefronts and on street corners. Their pervasive images present us with a wealth of information. So how do we extract information from these images and use it?

    Students attend the third annual Microsoft Research Summer School.

    One hundred excited students from across Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)  converged at Moscow State University for the 3rd Annual Microsoft Research Summer School.

    That question set the scene for 100 excited students from across Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a quarter of whom were women, who converged on Moscow State University (MSU) for the third annual Microsoft Research Summer School. This year’s session focused on the intricacies of computer vision, with activities led by Microsoft Research experts and leading European academics.

    The summer session began with a special welcome from Nikolay Pryanishnikov, president of Microsoft Russia. “Supporting young talent is traditionally one of our key strategic priorities,” Pryanishnikov told the students. “We are confident that, with the help of events like this Microsoft Research Summer School, our young specialists will be able to realize their ideas, reach new peaks, and increase the innovation potential of the Russian economy.”

    The students were busy throughout the week; each day was packed with intensive academic talks, demonstrations, and hands-on laboratory sessions that were designed to educate attendees about fundamental and state-of-the-art techniques in computer vision. Andrew Fitzgibbon, a principal researcher at Microsoft Research Cambridge, gave a detailed description of how decades of computer vision research, along with ground-breaking ideas from Microsoft Research, came together to make Kinect technology a reality. The summer session also featured industry talks: Aram Pakhchanian of ABBYY, a Moscow-based company that specializes in optical character recognition, and Michael Nikonov of iPi Soft, a company that specializes in motion capture technology, talked about how to create a startup company in computer vision.

    An enthusiastic student questions Andrew Blake, Managing Director of Microsoft Research CambridgeAndrew Blake, managing director of Microsoft Research Cambridge, was delighted to lecture and talk to the enthusiastic students. “It was clearly a splendidly vibrant event, with tremendous enthusiasm from the students,” he said. “This really is a landmark event for Microsoft in Russia. It marks a milestone in the maturity of the developing links between Microsoft Research, Microsoft Research Connections, and Moscow State University.”

    Anton Konushin, head of the Vision Group at MSU, hopes that others can benefit from the Summer School. “Our school was truly a most selective one, with only one out of five students was accepted to the school. But with video lectures available online soon, we hope that this 400 students who hadn't made it to the event, can also become familiar with materials. We plan to make the influence of the school to Russian computer vision community a long-lasting one."

    At the end of the week, students departed the summer school filled with enthusiasm and a deeper insight into how computer vision can change our world.

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

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