Microsoft Research Blog

The Microsoft Research blog provides in-depth views and perspectives from our researchers, scientists and engineers, plus information about noteworthy events and conferences, scholarships, and fellowships designed for academic and scientific communities.

  1. Metalearned Neural Memory: Teaching neural networks how to remember

    Memory is an important part of human intelligence and the human experience. It grounds us in the current moment, helping us understand where we are and, consequently, what we should do next. Consider the simple example of reading a book. The ultimate goal is to understand the story, and memory is the reason we’re able to do so. Memory allows us to efficiently store the information we encounter and later recall the details we’ve previously…

    December 4th, 2019

  2. Going meta: learning algorithms and the self-supervised machine with Dr. Philip Bachman

    Episode 101 | December 4, 2019 - Deep learning methodologies like supervised learning have been very successful in training machines to make predictions about the world. But because they’re so dependent upon large amounts of human-annotated data, they’ve been difficult to scale. Dr. Phil Bachman, a researcher at MSR Montreal, would like to change that, and he’s working to train machines to collect, sort and label their own data, so people don’t have to. On…

    December 4th, 2019

  3. The road less traveled: With Successor Uncertainties, RL agents become better informed explorers

    Imagine moving to a new city. You want to get from your new home to your new job. Unfamiliar with the area, you ask your co-workers for the best route, and as far as you can tell ... they’re right! You get to work and back easily. But as you acclimate, you begin to wonder: Is there a more scenic route, perhaps, or a route that passes by a good coffee spot? The fundamental question…

    December 2nd, 2019

  4. Autonomous systems, aerial robotics and Game of Drones with Gurdeep Pall and Dr. Ashish Kapoor

    Episode 100 | November 27, 2019 - There’s a lot of excitement around self-driving cars, delivery drones, and other intelligent, autonomous systems, but before they can be deployed at scale, they need to be both reliable and safe. That’s why Gurdeep Pall, CVP of Business AI at Microsoft, and Dr. Ashish Kapoor, who leads research in Aerial Informatics and Robotics, are using a simulated environment called AirSim to reduce the time, cost and risk of…

    November 27th, 2019

  5. Optimistic Actor Critic avoids the pitfalls of greedy exploration in reinforcement learning

    One of the core directions of Project Malmo is to develop AI capable of rich interactions. Whether that means learning new skills to apply to challenging problems, understanding complex environments, or knowing when to enlist the help of humans, reinforcement learning (RL) is a core enabling technology for building these types of AI. In order to perform RL well, agents need to do exploration efficiently, which means understanding when to try new things out and…

    November 26th, 2019

  6. Icebreaker: New model with novel element-wise information acquisition method reduces cost and data needed to train machine learning models

    In many real-life scenarios, obtaining information is costly, and getting fully observed data is almost impossible. For example, in the recruiting world, obtaining relevant information (in other words, a feature value) for a company could mean performing time-consuming interviews. The same applies to many other scenarios, such as in education and the medical field, where each feature value is an often more complex answer to a question. Unfortunately, AI-aided decision making usually requires large amounts…

    November 25th, 2019

  7. Logarithmic mapping allows for low discount factors by creating action gaps similar in size

    While reinforcement learning (RL) has seen significant successes over the past few years, modern deep RL methods are often criticized for how sensitive they are with respect to their hyper-parameters. One such hyper-parameter is the discount factor, which controls how future rewards are weighted compared to immediate rewards. The objective that one wants to optimize in RL is often best described as an undiscounted sum of rewards (for example, maximizing the total score in a…

    November 21st, 2019

  8. Program synthesis and the art of programming by intent with Dr. Sumit Gulwani

    Episode 99 | November 20, 2019 - Dr. Sumit Gulwani is a programmer’s programmer. Literally. A Partner Research Manager in the Program Synthesis, or PROSE, group at Microsoft Research, Dr. Gulwani is a leading researcher in program synthesis and the inventor of many intent-understanding, programming-by-example and programming-by-natural language technologies – aka, the automation of “what I meant to do and wanted to do, but my computer wouldn’t let me” tasks. Today, Dr. Gulwani gives us…

    November 20th, 2019

  9. Hacking the runway with MakeCode with Dr. Thomas Ball and Dr. Teddy Seyed

    Episode 98 | November 13, 2019 - Computer programming has often been perceived as the exclusive domain of computer scientists and software engineers. But that’s changing, thanks to the work of people like Dr. Thomas Ball, a Partner Researcher in the RiSE group at Microsoft Research, and Dr. Teddy Seyed, a post-doctoral researcher in the same group. Their goal is to make programming accessible to non-programmers in places like the classroom, the workshop… and even…

    November 13th, 2019

  10. Optics for the cloud: storage in the zettabyte era with Dr. Ant Rowstron and Mark Russinovich

    Episode 97 | November 6, 2019 - Remember when a hard drive that could hold a terabyte of data was a big deal? Well, we’re now in an era where peta-, exa- and even zetta-bytes are the bytes of the day, and it turns out it’s hard to fit that many zeroes on a hard drive. That’s where Dr. Ant Rowstron, Deputy Lab Director of Microsoft Research Cambridge, and Mark Russinovich, Chief Technical Officer of Azure, come in. Their respective…

    November 6th, 2019

  11. Art + Architecture + AI = Ada with Jenny Sabin and Asta Roseway

    Episode 96 | October 30, 2019 - Jenny Sabin is an architectural designer, a professor, a studio principal and MSR’s current Artist in Residence. Asta Roseway is a principal research designer, a “fusionist” and the co-founder of the Artist in Residence program at Microsoft Research. The two, along with a stellar multi-disciplinary team, recently completed the installation of Ada, the first interactive architectural pavilion powered by AI, in the heart of the Microsoft Research building…

    October 30th, 2019

  12. PipeDream: A more effective way to train deep neural networks using pipeline parallelism

    Deep Neural Networks (DNNs) have facilitated tremendous progress across a range of applications, including image classification, translation, language modeling, and video captioning. DNN training is extremely time-consuming, needing efficient multi-accelerator parallelization. In “PipeDream: Generalized Pipeline Parallelism for DNN Training,” published at the 27th ACM Symposium on Operating Systems Principles (SOSP 2019), Microsoft researchers in the Systems Research Group, along with students and colleagues from Carnegie Mellon University and Stanford University, have proposed a new way…

    October 28th, 2019