Pinwheel graphic representing the Microsoft Research Summit
October 19, 2021 - October 21, 2021

Microsoft Research Summit 2021

Location: Virtual

What’s Next for Technology and Humanity?

Register now for Microsoft Research Summit 2022, October 18, 2022-October 20, 2022

For 30 years, our research community at Microsoft has worked across disciplines, institutions, and geographies to envision and realize the promise of new technologies for Microsoft and for society. On Oct. 19–21, 2021, we invited the global science and technology community to continue this exploration—because ensuring that future advancements benefit everyone is up to all of us.

The inaugural Microsoft Research Summit brought together science and technology leaders from around the world, contributing over 190 presentations about research projects driving advances across the sciences and pushing the limits of technology toward achieving a meaningful impact on humanity.

To browse sessions, select the “On Demand” tab above or explore a brief summary of each track below, where you can follow the link to an on-demand version of the full track or plenary.



Industrial Research in the 21st Century. Peter Lee, CVP of Research and Incubations at Microsoft, opened Research Summit with some reflections on the curiosity that animates us as researchers, the role of computer science in advancing all the sciences, and the importance of our work in light of the tremendous challenges we will face as a society in the coming years.

Statistical Imaginaries: An Ode to Responsible Data Science. Drawing on her research into the 2020 US census, danah boyd discussed how illusions surrounding data can be weaponized. She highlighted how the US Census Bureau’s decision to embrace differential privacy as part of its system to protect statistical confidentiality upended what people imagined the work of data to be. She then discussed the importance of grappling with uncertainty and limitations as a key part of responsible data science.

New Developments in Human-Computer Interaction. Mary Czerwinski was joined by colleagues at Microsoft Research for a look across some of the latest work in human-computer interaction. They explored advances that are helping us manage and get more value out of the devices we use every day; find new ways to express ourselves creatively; make virtual and augmented worlds feel more real (literally); use technology to stay focused and manage stress; expand computing into exciting new form factors; and ensure that everyone can take advantage of what technology has to offer.

The Future of Research. Microsoft CTO Kevin Scott was joined by CEO Satya Nadella and Max Welling, VP and Distinguished Scientist, to discuss the significance of Microsoft Research’s 30 years of contributions to the company, the biggest trends in computer science research that will define the next decade and beyond, and how these forthcoming transformative technology breakthroughs can be applied against the world’s most challenging problems.



Advancing human knowledge and foundational technologies

Causal Machine Learning. Causal machine learning is an increasingly important, but not well understood, technology. It’s a necessary precursor to building more human-like machine intelligence, and an integral factor in the fields of information, data, and computer science. This track focuses on emerging causal machine learning technologies and the opportunities for practical impact at the intersection of academia and industry, with contributions from researchers at Microsoft and the broader academic and industrial research communities.

Cloud Intelligence / AIOps. Cloud computing platforms have become part of the basic infrastructure of the world, bringing unprecedented opportunities of digital transformation to business, society, and human life. The AIOps & Cloud Intelligence track brings together researchers from academia and industry to explore the frontier of research and practice in utilizing artificial intelligence and machine learning to help design, build, and operate complex cloud systems at scale.

Deep Learning & Large-Scale AI. AI has undergone a transformation in recent years with the emergence of large-scale models and deep learning. AI models continue to be able to achieve in areas like language and vision. Large AI models also create new challenges, from cost and sustainability of models to their privacy and trustworthiness. This track explores advancing deep learning and large-scale AI in language, vision, and multimodality responsibly while considering its future impact on people and society.

The Future of Cloud Networking. Microsoft Research has been at the forefront of network innovation for the cloud for over a decade. Our work, in partnership with Azure, spans all aspects of the network stack, along with network management and verification. Our research has shipped in various parts of the Azure stack and has won several awards. In this track, you will learn about some of these innovations and current problems we’re working to solve, from researchers in Microsoft Research and from leaders in Azure.

The Future of Search & Recommendation. Search and recommendation is core to many Microsoft offerings – such as Microsoft 365,  Microsoft Azure,  and Microsoft Bing – and it’s crucial to a growing range of industries, such as biomedicine, retail e-commerce, and legal services. Underlying technologies are transforming what we know about search and recommendation, and the ability to understand and represent knowledge as embeddings extends beyond text to code, images, and more. This track discusses how these technologies will transform every profession for everyday searchers.

Reinforcement Learning. Reward-based learning has been a foundational component in human psychology. With reinforcement learning, researchers are using reward systems to accelerate AI, where techniques for gaming, robotics, and autonomous systems are being created with an emphasis on real-world impact in the future. In this track, you’ll learn about how researchers are using AI to power innovation in artificial environments, like simulators or games, and are thinking about bridging the gap to real-world applications for industry and other areas of impact.

Towards Human-Like Visual Learning & Reasoning. Big data-driven deep learning has helped significantly improve the performance of visual tasks in the past few years, but it has also exhibited limitations in scalability and adaptation to real-world scenarios. Researchers and practitioners are working hard to develop architectures and algorithms to address these limitations. In this track, researchers and practitioners share their work and insights and discuss how to effectively move this emerging field forward.



Amplifying human creativity and achievement

Empowering Software Developers & Mathematicians with AI. Machine learning systems have become increasingly capable of making fast, plausible predictions in diverse situations. Combining this capability with the reliability of symbolic reasoning will produce next-generation AI that will empower developers and mathematicians in exciting new ways. This track will explore recent progress in this area, including ways to boost productivity, security, and support for evolving communities, as well as research on performant machine learning systems.

New Future of Work. Where and when we work—and how we collaborate—will never be the same. The New Future of Work track explores the many shifts currently underway in workplaces around the globe. Key research areas explored include hybrid meetings, developer productivity, and the realization of organizations that are resilient and equitable. Discover how emerging work practices are impacting individuals and teams, and take away strategies to help you and your organization thrive.

Research for Industry. The Research for Industry track will discuss the data-driven future of Industry, and the interdisciplinary research opportunities in various industries, such as Space, Telcos, Energy, Supply Chain, Agriculture, Food, Financial Services and Entertainment. Hear about our innovations and thoughts from industry leaders from academia, government agencies, and global industry-leading companies.



Fostering a resilient and sustainable society

Research for Carbon Negative. This track explores the goal of reaching carbon negative from multiple perspectives. You’ll learn about the current research in this field and the research that’s still needed. You’ll also hear about the key problems that we need to solve to limit Earth’s warming and how researchers around the globe and in a variety of areas can contribute to the solutions.

Tech for Resilient Communities. This track examines processes and techniques for developing technology in conjunction with community partners, following a social science-driven methodology which can lead to more effective, inclusive innovations with greater benefits at the local level. Highlights include discussions with community organizers working with established and emerging scholars to study how to improve community healthcare, protect the data of society’s most vulnerable members, disrupt human trafficking, and monitor urban air quality. The track also includes a demonstration of Project Eclipse, a sensor network managed by communities to measure air quality at the neighborhood level.



Supporting a healthy global society

Health & Life Sciences: Delivery. Research and technological developments play a huge role in combatting disparities and inequities in healthcare delivery, increasing access to quality healthcare and building capacity for health resilience at all levels of society. In this track, you’ll learn about the new technologies and experiences we are defining in close partnership with organizations and communities that share our vision: to achieve better health and well-being for all.

Health & Life Sciences: Discovery. Microsoft is exploring and making technological advances in collaboration with our research partners and the life sciences ecosystem around the globe in healthcare, biology, biotechnology, and precision medicine. In this track, you’ll learn about these breakthroughs and hear how AI is revolutionizing the way people process, interpret, and use biological and medical data. Discover the benefits of interpreting and integrating experimental data and using computational approaches in biological research.



Ensuring that technology is trustworthy and beneficial to everyone

The Future of Privacy & Security. Security and privacy are key components to building trust in the technologies that we use, whether that be for applications for individuals, businesses, or in government. As new challenges and threats emerge in this area, we need to rely on a new generation of technologies to bolster system integrity and user privacy. This track explores three key areas of research at Microsoft and beyond: Privacy preserving machine learning, technologies that focus on election integrity, and provably secure parsing technologies for developing robust communication protocols for systems and services.

Responsible AI. As we’ve seen in countless media articles, AI systems can behave unfairly or unreliably. They can generate undesirable or harmful content, and they can reproduce or exacerbate existing social inequities. This track explores the complex societal implications of AI, machine learning, and natural language processing. Learn how Microsoft researchers are working on practices, processes, and technologies to advance responsible AI, often in collaboration with researchers and practitioners around the world.