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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

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    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

    Microsoft issues RFP for Surface Hub

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    This past January, Microsoft revealed to the world Microsoft Surface Hub, a state-of-the-art, large-format, pen and touch computing device—think of it as a digital whiteboard on steroids—that empowers our enterprise customers to collaborate, brainstorm, and get insight into their data.

    This product brings together the very best of Microsoft capabilities, combining first-rate hardware in display, touch, and sensing, with a custom edition of Windows 10 specifically designed for communal scenarios, with integrated key productivity applications and services.

    How would you harness the potential of Microsoft Surface Hub?

    With Surface Hub, we are launching a completely new category of computing using the large screen for group productivity. This is a relatively young field with lots of greenfield opportunity, which is why we invite the academic research community to join us in advancing it. 

    Surface Hub has its roots in Perceptive Pixel, a company dedicated to multi-touch interfaces that formed out of my academic research at New York University Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. Here at Microsoft, participation in and support of the research community has always been a core part of our culture even as we’ve advanced on our commercial mission. This RFP exemplifies the academic-industry collaboration that is a hallmark of Microsoft Research.

    On behalf of Microsoft Research and Microsoft Devices Group, I am thrilled to announce an RFP that will award a Surface Hub and up to US$25,000 to selected research proposals from qualified academic institutions.

    We look forward to receiving submissions in a range of domains, including core HCI techniques (such as inking and sketch-based interfaces, pen and touch, large-screen interaction, proxemics, and multi-modal interfaces), collaboration, information visualization, and technology in education/training.

    But what’s really great about Surface Hub is just how broadly its impact can reach. We are interested in proposals from any field, especially those that demonstrate alignment to Microsoft’s mission of productivity, and we expect rigorous work leading to novel contributions.

    To learn more about the RFP, please visit Surface Hub for Research. The deadline for proposal submissions is June 12.

    Jeff Han, General Manager for Microsoft Surface Hub

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  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Academia and industry unite to teach big data research

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    Big data—that buzzword seems to dominate information technology discussions these days. But big data is so much more than a clever catchphrase: it’s a reality that holds enormous potential. We now have the largest and most diversified volume of data in human history. And it’s growing exponentially: approximately 90% of today’s data has been generated within the past two years. The exploding science of big data is changing the IT industry and exerting a powerful impact on everyday life.

    But what should big data science be, and where is it headed? These are the fundamental questions that have prompted Tsinghua University and Microsoft Research Asia to work together to establish a pioneering graduate course on Big Data Foundations and Applications. Turing Award winner and Tsinghua professor Andrew Chi-Chih Yao spent more than eight months developing the course, which launched in September 2014.

    Turing Award winner and Tsinghua professor Andrew Chi-Chih Yao
    Turing Award winner and Tsinghua professor Andrew Chi-Chih Yao

    Solidifying knowledge through academia-industry cooperation

    On October 9, Hsiao-Wuen Hon, managing director of Microsoft Research Asia, delivered the course’s first lecture. Dr. Hon stressed that the importance of big data lies not only in its value in academic research but also in its application to real-world problems, which, he said, is why the academia-industry cooperation represented by the course is so critical.

    “One of our purposes in launching this course with Tsinghua is to introduce Microsoft’s ideas to students, to let them get to know us better,” he explained. “Meanwhile, our top professional researchers can deepen their understanding of big data while teaching the students. So the course is not just about enhancing the students’ understanding of big data; it’s also about solidifying the researchers’ knowledge of big data.”

    Hsiao-Wuen Hon, managing director of Microsoft Research Asia, delivered the course's first lecture.
    Hsiao-Wuen Hon, managing director of Microsoft Research Asia, delivered the course's first lecture.

    Echoing the importance of the industry-academia connection, Professor Yao remarked, “Big data is an epoch-making subject. It has influenced all the other disciplines, including computer science and information technology. We should not only focus on the scientific research. Education development is also a new trend. ”

    Leading the forefront of big data science

    Wei Chen, a senior researcher at Microsoft Research Asia, has been a visiting professor at Tsinghua University since 2007. He has helped design and launch several entry-level courses at Tsinghua, and he is a strong proponent of the new big data course.

    “We certainly don’t expect this course to become a platform for its product promotion. Instead, it is being established to provide students with cutting-edge knowledge, to get them engaged in research and technology development, and to foster their ability to do research and experimentation,” he said.

    Wei Chen, senior researcher at Microsoft Research Asia, talks with student.
    Wei Chen, senior researcher at Microsoft Research Asia, talks with student.

    Professor Chen pointed out that while the course will provide an academic understanding of big data, it will also introduce students to real-life cases of Microsoft big data research and applications. In addition, students will have the opportunity to conduct experiments using Microsoft Azure, the company’s cloud-computing platform. He believes these practical, hands-on components distinguish this class from other big data courses.

    Feeding the talent pipeline

    Microsoft Research has a long tradition of collaborating with universities and has undertaken several initiatives to nurture the next generation of talented researchers. Since 2002, for instance, Microsoft Research Asia has hosted over 4,000 interns and carried out projects with more than 40 universities and institutes. The new big data course comes directly out of that tradition, and both Microsoft Research and Tsinghua University have high expectations for this collaboration. Professor Yao probably put it best, saying, “I believe this world-class course will give students a comprehensive understanding of big data and its knowledge structure, helping them reach their goals in future jobs and research.”

    Kangping Liu, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Asia

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