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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

    Jammin’ with Cloud-Enabled Apps


    Project Hawaii Mobile Code Jam ChallengeAre you a student looking to win a little extra spending money? Or maybe just get some props for your coding chops? If so, you’ll want to enter your Windows Phone or Windows 8 app in the Project Hawaii Mobile Code Jam Challenge. But you’d better act quickly—you’ll need to register your project by October 30.

    The Code Jam is being featured as an integral part of the upcoming IEEE Consumer Communications & Networking Conference (CCNC 2013), where three winners will be selected. The first-place winner will receive US$1,500; the second-place winner, $1,000; and the third-place winner, $700. Not bad, especially since you’ll get recognized in front of your peers at CCNC. And you can win some money to blow in Vegas.

    Your project must be an app that runs on Windows Phone (version 7.5) or Windows 8, and it must use one or more of the Project Hawaii services. Oh, and it has to be available for use, free of charge, in academic and research settings. Visit the Mobile Code Jam site for full contest details.

    So, you ask, what are the Project Hawaii services? Well, with Project Hawaii, you can develop cloud-enhanced Windows Phone apps that access a set of cloud services, which includes Social Mobile Sharing Service (SMASH), Path Prediction, Key Value, Translator, Optical Character Recognition, Speech to Text, Relay, and Rendezvous. Learn more.

    While prizes and recognition are certainly nice, the main goal of the contest is to encourage researchers and, especially, students to advance the field of mobile apps and services. You can dream up any scenario you want: maybe an app that solves a societal problem, or one that uses mobile technology to help the elderly or infirm. Or maybe something to beat the odds at pai gow. You’re bound only by your creativity and imagination.

    As noted above, you’ll need to register your project by October 30. The other key date is December 14, which is the deadline for submitting your overview paper describing your entry. You’re encouraged to prepare as much documentation as possible, including examples of how the app might be used and screenshots or other displays showing the software in action. Entries will be peer-reviewed and finalists will be invited to demonstrate their software to a panel of judges during the conference program.

    Remember, if you want to kick out the jams at IEEE CCNC, you’ll need to register your project by October 30. If the trick-or-treaters show up and you’re still pondering your entry, you’re out of luck, so get jammin’.

    Arjmand Samuel, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections

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  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Summit promotes women’s role in computing


    The annual NCWIT Summit brings together committed and passionate minds across industry, academia, and nonprofit organizations, united by the goal of increasing the meaningful participation of women in computing. The 2013 event, which took place in Tucson, Arizona, in late May, was no exception, with insightful presentations, hands-on workshops, and great networking opportunities, all designed to foster women’s growing role in IT and computer science.

    Microsoft was pleased to participate in the opening session of the summit, with Tony Hey, vice president of Microsoft Research Connections, announcing the company’s commitment to four more years of sponsored partnership with NCWIT (National Center for Women & Information Technology). Tony stressed that diversity, including gender diversity, helps drive innovation and is critical to advances in computing. He highlighted the very real and personal aspects of this topic through the story of Emily Peed-Brown, who received the benefit of NCWIT’s Aspirations in Computing Talent Development Initiative and is now utilizing her passion to help middle-school girls become involved in the computer sciences.

    The NCWIT Academic Alliance supports female students, from their first studies in technology through their collegiate degrees
    The NCWIT Academic Alliance supports female students, from their first studies in technology through their collegiate degrees.

    During the general sessions and open receptions, attendees came together to learn from each other, showcase successes, discuss the latest research, and be inspired to make an even greater commitment to driving change through computer science. With the looming talent shortage for US technical jobs, the continued challenge of retaining and growing the number of women in technology leadership, and the low percentage of young women receiving computing and information sciences degrees (just 18 percent), there is work to be done.

    The heart of the NCWIT organization resides in its learning communities, called Alliances. The K-12 and Academic Alliances, for example, support young female students, from their first studies in technology through their collegiate degrees, while the Workforce and Affinity Alliances focus on the retention and advancement of women in computing careers. Successes by these groups on both ends are cause for celebration. For example, the K-12 Alliance announced the launch of a Spanish-language microsite to bring the NCWIT message and resources to Spanish-speaking parents and influencers, and the Workforce Alliance launched the results of their last year’s efforts with the publication of Male Advocates and Allies: Promoting Gender Diversity in Technology Workplaces.

    The NCWIT Pacesetters committed to a new project aimed at growing girls’ awareness of the many career opportunities in the computing and IT fields.
    The NCWIT Pacesetters committed to a new project aimed at growing girls’ awareness of the many career opportunities in the computing and IT fields.

    A subset of members, including Microsoft, participate in a special NCWIT program called Pacesetters, where participating technical companies and academic institutions commit to increasing the number of women in their organizations. In a cross-industry cohort, they also work together on a common project. The first cohort created and launched the successful and ongoing Sit With Me campaign, a national advocacy campaign that provides a platform for advancing NCWIT’s mission. At this year’s NCWIT Summit, the newly formed cohort committed to a new project aimed at growing girls’ awareness of the numerous career opportunities and benefits that are available in the computing and IT fields.

    As informative and interesting as the general sessions were, and as much as we shared and learned in the Alliance meetings, nothing topped the Aspirations in Computing Awards ceremony. The spark in the eyes of the honored high school girls ignited something in all of us. These girls are now part of a strong community of thousands of young women who are ready to embark upon the work and use their keen minds to make their mark in information technology fields. They remind us all of the NCWIT mission. It is not just about the numbers—it’s about the next wave of technical innovators who will shape our world, and the importance of women being part of this future.

    —Dalene King, Global Diversity & Inclusion Manager, Microsoft

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  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Paris, Machine Learning, and the Wonders of Streaming


    Eiffel Tower, ParisStanding on the banks of the Seine, I found myself marveling at the beauty of “April in Paris” (cue the 1930s song). Perhaps it was the scent of the flowers in bloom in the Jardin du Luxembourg or the warmth of the Continental spring. But, most likely, my contentment stemmed from the success of the just-completed Microsoft Research Machine Learning Summit, which took place April 22 to 24 in the “City of Light” on Le Campus de Microsoft France.

    Andrew Blake, director of Microsoft Research CambridgeThe event brought together more than 230 attendees and presenters, including thought leaders from computer science, engineering, statistics, and mathematics. Through keynotes, demos, and panel discussions, we highlighted some of the key challenges in this new era of machine learning and explored the next generation of approaches, techniques, and tools that researchers and scientists need to exploit the information revolution for the benefit of society.

    Judea Pearl, professor emeritus at UCLAAs exciting as the in-person event was, I was equally enthused by the reception of our streaming broadcast of key presentations and interviews, which was viewed by some 3,000 people around the globe. The live, online presentation not only made it possible for many more people to view the summit, it gave a broader group of students and researchers an opportunity to engage directly with some of the top experts in the field of machine learning, including Andrew Blake, director of Microsoft Research Cambridge, and Judea Pearl, professor emeritus at UCLA. I was pleased that many from the online audience posed questions about computer vision to Professor Blake, and difficult questions about probability and causality to Professor Pearl.

    There was hardly an area of machine learning that wasn’t explored in depth at the summit—from the aforementioned topics of computer vision and causality, to insightful presentations on Bayesian statistics and the use of machine learning techniques in the realm of social media and large-scale learning.

    Of course the food was outstanding (it was Paris, after all), and meals were made all the more enjoyable by the stimulating conversation of our companions and the spectacular views of Paris from the thirty-fourth floor of our hotel. But for me, the most exciting moments were the intense discussions I observed taking place during breaks and the social events, and the sense that seeds of exciting new ideas were being planted that would germinate in the months and years ahead.

    Chris Bishop, Distinguished Scientist, Microsoft Research Cambridge

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