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Each year, Microsoft Research awards competitive grants to computer science academics through the Software Engineering Innovation Foundation (SEIF). In the first grant round, conducted in 2010, Professor David Notkin and his colleagues at the University of Washington were the recipients of one of the 12 awards for their proposal, “Speculation and Continuous Validation for Software Development,” which resulted in the project, “Crystal: Precise and Unobtrusive Conflict Warnings.” I’m pleased to announce that the achievements of Notkin and his colleagues are being recognized this month with an ACM SIGSOFT Distinguished Paper Award. The award will be presented at the European Software Engineering Conference and the ACM SIGSOFT Symposium on the Foundations of Software Engineering (ESEC/FSE) in Szeged, Hungary (September 5–9, 2011). I’d like to share some of this exceptional research with you today.
(From left to right) Reid Holmes, David Notkin, Judith Bishop, Michael Ernst, Yuriy Brun
About the Crystal Project
Collaborative development of large software projects can be hampered when conflicts arise because developers have created inconsistent copies of a shared file, Notkin explains. The Crystal approach is designed to help developers identify and resolve inconsistencies early, before those conflicts become severe—and before relevant changes fade from the developers’ memories. The Crystal paper presents three outcomes of the project:
Notkin’s study spans nine open-source systems totaling 3.4 million lines of code. The conflict data is derived from 550,000 development versions of the system. The complete paper, which goes into great detail on all three points, plus other research that was conducted as part of the project, is available to read online.
The SEIF grants are just one way through which we continue to strengthen our support for outstanding university software engineering programs. These grants are intended to stimulate research in all aspects of software engineering, with an aim to cultivate interest in Microsoft Research tools and technologies. They also strengthen our ties to the university community.
In fact, one of the postgraduate students who worked on Notkin’s Crystal project, Kıvanç Muşlu, came to work for us as an intern. He was jointly mentored by Christian Bird and Tom Zimmermann of the Research in Software Engineering group (RiSE) and me. During his internship, Muşlu explored how Crystal’s principles could be expanded for use in a full industrial context. The testbed was the full Bing development history. The result of his work, a new tool called Beacon, will be deployed to Microsoft product groups in the near future. Like Crystal, Beacon can alert developers when code they are writing will conflict with changes to another branch of the code. By using Microsoft Lync, it can quickly put the developers of the two sections of code in touch so that they can resolve the conflict. The challenge was to make the system work in real time with the enormous number of files and developers involved in a system like Bing. We look forward to seeing more from Muşlu in the future.
—Judith Bishop, Director of Computer Science, Microsoft Research Connections
I WANT YOU…. Anyone who grew up in the United States, as I did, is familiar with the famous World War II recruiting poster of Uncle Sam exhorting young Americans to enlist in the armed forces. (No, I wasn’t alive then, but the poster is an icon.)
Well, Uncle Sam is calling again, not for men and women under arms, but for recent graduates, top researchers, and great innovators—in short, for creative young people who want to be agents of change in the digital world. On February 5, the White House announced round 2 of the Presidential Innovation Fellows (PIF) program, a unique effort that brings incredibly talented go-getters from the private sector to work for 6 to 12 months with top government innovators to solve challenges of national importance. PIF projects are selected based on their potential to save lives, save taxpayer money, and fuel job growth.
I am pleased to be working with the Office of Science and Technology Policy Team (OSTP) in helping to announce this second round of Presidential Innovation Fellowships, especially since the program complements my passion—familiar to regular readers of this blog—to grow the number of women and minorities in computing. The inaugural round of 18 Presidential Innovation Fellows worked on five projects and did a fantastic job, but, astonishingly, the group lacked diversity, even though the United States is renowned as a “melting pot” of cultural and ethnic diversity. For round 2, the OSTP wants to do a better job of reaching a diverse audience.
This second round of the PIF program include nine projects:
Disaster Response and Recovery: Collaboratively building and “pre-positioning" needed tech tools ahead of future emergencies or natural disasters, in order to mitigate economic damage and save lives.
MyUSA: Simplifying the process of finding and accessing information and government services that are right for you. Helping US businesses access the information and services that will help them grow, hire US workers, and export to foreign markets.
RFP-EZ and Innovative Contracting Tools: Making it easier for the US government to do business with small, high-growth tech companies, and enabling the government to buy better, lower-cost tech solutions from the full range of US businesses.
Cyber-Physical Systems: Working with government and industry to create standards for a new generation of interoperable, dynamic, and efficient “smart systems”—an “industrial Internet”—that combines distributed sensing, control, and data analytics to help grow new high-value US jobs and the economy.
Open Data Initiatives: Accelerating and expanding efforts to make government information resources more publicly accessible in “computer-readable” form and spurring the use of those data by entrepreneurs as fuel for the creation of new products, services, and jobs.
MyData Initiatives: Empowering the people of the United States with secure access to their own personal health, energy, and education data.
Innovation Toolkit: Developing an innovation toolkit that empowers the US federal workforce to respond to national priorities more quickly and more efficiently.
21st Century Financial Systems: Moving financial accounting systems of US federal agencies out of the era of unwieldy agency-specific implementations to one that favors more nimble, modular, scalable, and cost-effective approaches.
Development Innovation Ventures: Enabling the US government to identify, test, and scale breakthrough solutions to the world’s toughest problems.
If you are looking for an opportunity to make a difference, here is a chance to influence millions of lives by thinking outside of the box and building truly innovative solutions. Presidential Innovation Fellows have a unique chance to serve their country and influence change on a truly massive scale. The White House will be accepting applications from February 5 through March 17, looking to put together dynamic, diverse, and innovative project teams that will produce tremendous results for the residents of the United States.
PIF applicants need not have deep technical programming skills; rather, they require an ability to think creatively, be an agent for change, and to recognize opportunities where technology can solve problems. I am asking all of you in the academic community to reach out to recent graduates and alumni that you believe can influence positive change and envision innovative solutions. And don’t count yourself out, as this could be the sabbatical of a lifetime. If you are interested in learning more and applying, please visit Presidential Innovation Fellows.
—Rane Johnson-Stempson, Education and Scholarly Communication Principal Research Director, Microsoft Research Connections
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.
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