Microsoft Research https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research Wed, 24 Aug 2016 16:52:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.3 Long-term collaboration takes aim at mobile browsing https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/long-term-collaboration-takes-aim-mobile-browsing/ Thu, 11 Aug 2016 16:00:50 +0000 https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/?p=274551 By Lily Sun, Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Asia As mobile browsing continues to consume an ever larger share of Internet services, the stakes of improving the mobile user experience have never been greater. That’s one of the reasons that Microsoft Research Asia (MSRA) and Peking University are embarking on a joint project to raise the […]

The post Long-term collaboration takes aim at mobile browsing appeared first on Microsoft Research.

]]>
By Lily Sun, Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Asia

As mobile browsing continues to consume an ever larger share of Internet services, the stakes of improving the mobile user experience have never been greater.

That’s one of the reasons that Microsoft Research Asia (MSRA) and Peking University are embarking on a joint project to raise the quality of user experience (QoE) for mobile browsers. Building on the success of earlier collaborations, MSRA researcher Yunxin Liu will once again join forces with Xuanzhe Liu, associate professor at the university’s School of Electronics Engineering and Computer Science.

The mobile experience

It’s common sentiment that the QoE of mobile web browsing is far from satisfying. Mobile browsers suffer from the redundant transfer of resources, which leads to duplicated data transmission, long page load time, and high energy drain.

Building a collaborative team

Representing their organizations, Yunxin and Xuanzhe have jointly conducted various in-depth studies covering mobile web performance, Android OS latency, human-computer interactions, and related technologies. After first winning a Microsoft Fellowship in 2007, Xuanzhe came to MSRA in 2013 as “Star-Track” Young Visiting Professor.

The two researchers co-authored a number of papers presented at top conferences such as the International World Wide Web Conference (WWW), and published in leading journals including IEEE Transactions on Mobile Computing and IEEE Transactions on Services Computing. Together they’ve fostered a strong, sustained relationship between the two organizations.

“In our collaborations, Microsoft Research, as a leader in operating system research and industry, is able to provide first-hand, real-world users’ requirements and industry resources, where we can explore valuable and interesting problems to tackle”, says Xuanzhe. “Furthermore, collaborating with top researchers in Microsoft Research greatly helps promote the rapid growth of my students. Working with Dr. Yunxin Liu and other colleagues from the System Research Group is really an invaluable opportunity.”

Xuanzhe Liu and Yunxin Liu

Xuanzhe Liu and Yunxin Liu

Solving the puzzle of web cache performance

The team’s focus on QoE issues in mobile web browsing has led to some key findings. Research papers published in IEEE Transactions on Mobile Computing and WWW showed mobile web browsing currently suffers from an imperfect cache mechanism. The studies — based on analyzing 1 month of version traces for more than 100 popular web apps — pinpoint three root causes for the weak mobile web cache performance:

  • Same content. The same resources have different URLs when requested at different times.
  • Heuristic expiration. The caching policy is not explicitly defined by the server and thus it depends on browsers to infer an expiration time.
  • Conservative expiration time. The expiration time is set to be too short.

at the IEEE International Conference on Web Service (ICWS). Analyzing the differences between native apps and web apps with the same functionality, their results helped inform how native apps package resources before delivering them to the user.

Building the dual proxy solution

The findings enabled the team to design and implement a dual-proxy system to optimize the QoE of mobile web browsing. Consisting of a remote proxy on the cloud/cloudlet and a local proxy on a client device, the system differs from traditional proxies that remain largely limited to simple request forwarding and cache lookup. The improved remote proxy can proactively crawl and render webpages from web servers. It can store all the downloaded resources in loading each webpage as well as build a resource loading graph for the webpage. As a result, proxies can now determine the resources required to load the webpage. And crucially, they can optimize the order in which they should load.

Now when a client requests a webpage (via the local proxy of the client), the remote proxy can immediately send all the pre-fetched resources of the webpage to the client in a batch and in the right order.

So far, the project is showing measurable success: An evaluation of 50 websites indicate average page load time is reduced by 43.1 percent and network data transmission is cut by 57.6 percent — while imposing marginal system overhead. Given these findings, the team is hopeful that their project will lead to improved QoE of mobile web browsing on a broader scale.

Learn More

The post Long-term collaboration takes aim at mobile browsing appeared first on Microsoft Research.

]]>
PhD Summer School brings top students to Cambridge https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/phd-summer-school-brings-top-students-cambridge/ Wed, 10 Aug 2016 16:00:41 +0000 https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/?p=271518 By Scarlet Schwiderski-Grosche, Senior Research Program Manager Pivoting from the Old World charm of High Tea to contemplating a dystopian AI-dominated future was among the many experiences facing more than 80 doctoral students at the PhD Summer School, held July 4–8 in Cambridge, England. Each year the Microsoft Research Cambridge Lab brings together tech luminaries and […]

The post PhD Summer School brings top students to Cambridge appeared first on Microsoft Research.

]]>
By Scarlet Schwiderski-Grosche, Senior Research Program Manager

Pivoting from the Old World charm of High Tea to contemplating a dystopian AI-dominated future was among the many experiences facing more than 80 doctoral students at the PhD Summer School, held July 4–8 in Cambridge, England.

PhD Summer School 2016 group photo

Each year the Microsoft Research Cambridge Lab brings together tech luminaries and researchers with PhD students from research institutions across the EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) region to learn not only about the latest innovations in computing, but also to explore other parts of a successful researcher’s toolkit such as communicating their research or gaining a deeper insight into the social and economic impacts of advancing technology.

Diverse student body

Hailing from 36 research institutions spanning 10 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the students brought huge diversity to the Cambridge Lab, not just in terms of national origin and culture, but also in their research backgrounds, which extended beyond computer science and engineering into the realms of design and various natural and social sciences. The event’s attendees included recipients of Microsoft Research PhD Scholarships, along with students working with our EMEA Joint Research Centres, collaborating on Microsoft Azure for Research projects or otherwise partnering with Microsoft Research Cambridge.

Keynotes

Speaking on the “The Evolution of Innovation,” keynote speaker Hermann Hauser talked about the increasing speed of innovation and how computing has advanced through six waves beginning with the mainframe. Hauser, co-founder of Amadeus Capital, delighted the audience with an astute analysis of the innovations underlying each of the subsequent waves, culminating with the internet of things and machine learning. Hauser expressed his concern over the potential perils of AI and pointed to the new Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at University of Cambridge as he encouraged students to engage in the AI debate.

AI opportunities and concerns were reflected later in the week by Cambridge Lab Director Christopher Bishop. “New developments in machine learning, coupled with exponential growth in both data and processing power, suggest the time may be ripe to take the next steps towards this elusive goal,” Bishop said referring to the goal of creating a machine with human-level or super-human intelligence.

Talks

On the more practical side of machine learning and AI, Cambridge Lab researcher Katja Hofmann and her team in the Machine Intelligence & Perception group presented a talk and demo on Project Malmo. Malmo is a sophisticated AI experimentation platform built on top of Minecraft and designed to support fundamental research in artificial intelligence. Malmo received much attention recently after the code was released as open-source. In just the first week, thousands of users downloaded the open source software and more than 100,000 people viewed the project page.

Alison Noble, Professor in the Department for Biomedical Engineering at the University of Oxford, explained how her team uses machine learning in computer vision techniques to acquire and interpret ultrasound diagnostic data. Noble showed how her research is increasing both the usability and accuracy of ultrasound in the hands of non-experts, an important step as devices become cheaper, smaller and more portable.

Scientist Sara-Jane Dunn of the Cambridge Lab’s Biological Computation Group spoke about how cells could be “reprogramed” to induce an adult cell back to its stem cell like state. Such understanding could help develop better cell therapies and regenerative medicines.

Other Summer School talks centered on somewhat more practical issues such as optimizing the efficiency of datacenters and making computer programs and Internet communication more secure.

Demos

DemoFest AutoPixel

The Summer School really came to life at DemoFest where students learned about some of the most compelling developments from all five research groups at the Cambridge Lab. There were two health and well-being related demos: the Biological Computation Group demonstrated in-house experimental facilities that had recently become operational, illustrating how computational modelling, experimental protocols and lab automation will be used in this wet lab to advance the programming of biological systems. And, the Human Experiences & Design group presented Project Torino, a physical programming language inclusive of blind children.

Another demo was micro:bit, a pocket-sized, codeable computer that allows children to get creative with technology. Developed by the BBC and partners, including Microsoft, the project provides up to 1 million free micro:bits to every 11- or 12-year-old child across the UK. The demo featured a remote controlled car project from Lancaster University as well as a number of projects from Microsoft Research.

Applying for PhD scholarships

Microsoft Research PhD Scholarships support collaborative research projects between EMEA-based academics and researchers in the Cambridge Lab. Scholarships are awarded per a variety of criteria including how proposals relate to current focal areas of the Cambridge Lab. See the PhD Scholarship site for full details.

Prospective PhD supervisors submit applications via their academic institution. Applications are then peer reviewed and approximately 20 projects are selected for funding. PhD students are appointed to the selected projects and begin their research in the following academic year under the supervision of their academic supervisor and, with co-supervision from the Cambridge Lab researcher.

The online submission tool for the 2017 PhD Scholarship Program opens September 1 and submissions will close September 26, 2016.

Learn more

The post PhD Summer School brings top students to Cambridge appeared first on Microsoft Research.

]]>
Microsoft researchers enable secure data exchange in the cloud https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/microsoft-researchers-enable-secure-data-exchange-cloud/ Tue, 09 Aug 2016 16:00:56 +0000 https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/?p=270618 By John Roach, Writer, Microsoft Research In the future, machine learning algorithms may examine our genomes to determine our susceptibility to maladies such as heart disease and cancer. Between now and then, computer scientists need to train the algorithms on genetic data, bundles of which are increasingly stored encrypted and secure in the cloud along […]

The post Microsoft researchers enable secure data exchange in the cloud appeared first on Microsoft Research.

]]>
By John Roach, Writer, Microsoft Research

In the future, machine learning algorithms may examine our genomes to determine our susceptibility to maladies such as heart disease and cancer. Between now and then, computer scientists need to train the algorithms on genetic data, bundles of which are increasingly stored encrypted and secure in the cloud along with financial records, vacation photos and other bits and bytes of digitized information.

And there the data sits, full of potential but ultimately of little use to anyone but its owner.

That’s because encrypted data must first be decrypted before it can be used. But decrypted data is vulnerable to malicious attacks, which creates a tradeoff between data usability and security.

New research from Microsoft aims to unlock the full value of encrypted data by using the cloud itself to perform secure data trades between multiple willing parties in a way that provides users full control over how much information the exchange reveals.

Ran Gilad-Bachrach / Photography by Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures

Ran Gilad-Bachrach / Photography by Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures

“What we are trying to do is keep the data private and, at the same time, get the value out of it,” says Ran Gilad-Bachrach, a researcher in the Cryptography Research group within Microsoft’s research organization and co-author of a paper released in June that describes the protocol, or set of rules, for this system to securely exchange data.

Multiparty computation

The exchange is based on the idea of a secure multiparty computation, where two or more parties agree to evaluate their data in a way that one or more of the parties gets a result but none of the parties learns anything about the others’ data, except for what can be inferred from the result.

The multiparty computation is akin to a group of employees who want to know where their individual salary ranks in relation to the group as a whole, but none of them wants to reveal their pay to the group.

One way to solve this problem is for each individual to tell their salary in confidence to a trusted colleague. This colleague calculates the average salary and shares the result with the group. Each employee can determine where their pay falls without learning what any individual is paid. The trusted colleague conveniently forgets everything.

“This secure data exchange emulates that, but without the need for the trusted colleague,” says paper co-author Peter Rindal, a PhD candidate at Oregon State University who is in his second internship at Microsoft and an expert on secure multiparty computation.

The cloud, according to the researchers, is a key feature of the exchange. It transforms a computation technique used to resolve water cooler disputes over pay to a secure system to train algorithms, perform market research, conduct auctions and enable new business opportunities.

Exchange in action

Here’s how it works:

Data owners – hundreds, thousands of them – encrypt their data and send it to the cloud for storage. Think of them as relatively passive sellers in the exchange. When an active buyer – usually one entity – comes along and wants to make a transaction with some of the sellers, those sellers approve the transaction by sending the buyer keys to the data.

But since those keys can decrypt the data stored in the cloud, the cloud can’t directly share the stored data with the buyer, otherwise security and privacy would be compromised.Kim Laine

“Instead, we want to use the keys to decrypt the data inside a multiparty computation,” says paper co-author Kim Laine, a post-doctoral researcher also in the Cryptography Research group who studies how to compute on encrypted data. Doing so unencrypts the data for a computation “without actually revealing anything to anyone except the result” of the computation.

All of the computation is performed in the cloud, and the computation itself is encrypted in such a way that not even the cloud knows what is being computed, which protects any of the buyer’s data used in the computation such as a proprietary algorithm. If everything goes as expected, the cloud reveals the decrypted results to the interested parties.

Set up this way, according to the researchers, the data exchange is secure provided that the cloud itself follows the rules and nothing more.

Test driving data

Here’s another advantage to the system: It’s costly to purchase data, and researchers with limited budgets need to make sure it is worth it. The exchange, Gilad-Bachrach explains, offers a way for a buyer to “test drive” a portion of the sellers’ data and thus make an informed decision over whether to buy the keys to unlock the full dataset.

Consider researchers at a pharmaceutical company who are developing a machine learning model that combs through genomes to determine individuals’ risk of various diseases. To improve the model and further study it, the researchers are interested in buying access to a medical center’s bundle of anonymized patient genomes, but only if the bundle contains distinctly different data than what the researchers have already used.

“We call this ‘can we test drive your data’ because why would you buy anything without knowing what you are buying,” says Laine. “But the problem with data is you can’t just show it.”

The secure data exchange system allows the researchers to perform a statistical analysis on a portion of the medical center’s anonymized genetic data that reveals how much it differs from the data already used to build the disease-prediction algorithm. After this test drive, the researchers can decide whether to buy the keys to the full bundle.

“What we are trying to build,” Gilad-Bachrach says, “is a mechanism by which you can say, ‘Look, I am interested in your data, but I want to verify it is really what I need before I purchase it.’”

Real world applications

In another use of the exchange, a medical center could compare the outcomes of its treatment plan for pneumonia with the outcomes of treatment plans used at other medical centers without any one medical center revealing what treatment plan it uses. That avoids the risk of getting called out for using a less effective treatment.

Individuals could even use the exchange as a marketplace to sell researchers access to their encrypted genetic data for algorithm training. Ultimately, Laine notes, the researchers might develop an algorithm that uses the exchange to communicate to participants whether or not their genome contains a specific mutation related to a health concern such as heart disease or cancer.

“If you are a match,” notes Laine, “you can decide if you want to contact the research group.”

It’s a research project for now. But the team aims to publicly release the library, or tools, needed to implement the secure data exchange in the near future.

Related links

The post Microsoft researchers enable secure data exchange in the cloud appeared first on Microsoft Research.

]]>
Microsoft NLP researchers converge at ACL 2016, edging ever closer to human-like conversational experiences https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/microsoft-nlp-researchers-converge-acl-2016-edging-ever-closer-human-like-conversational-experiences/ Mon, 08 Aug 2016 16:01:03 +0000 https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/?p=272250 By Bill Dolan, Principal Researcher, Microsoft Research This year, the annual meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL) will be held in Berlin, Germany, August 7-12, 2016, at Humboldt University. ACL is the premier conference on natural language processing (NLP) systems and computational linguistics. As a Gold sponsor, Microsoft is proud to have more […]

The post Microsoft NLP researchers converge at ACL 2016, edging ever closer to human-like conversational experiences appeared first on Microsoft Research.

]]>
By Bill Dolan, Principal Researcher, Microsoft Research

ACLThis year, the annual meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL) will be held in Berlin, Germany, August 7-12, 2016, at Humboldt University. ACL is the premier conference on natural language processing (NLP) systems and computational linguistics.

As a Gold sponsor, Microsoft is proud to have more than 20 researchers attending and presenting at ACL. Along with my colleagues in the Natural Language Processing and Speech group, we’ll be  presenting our latest research aimed at allowing computers to manipulate human language in order to engage and assist users.

A major focus of our recent work is language generation: giving a “voice” to machine state, code and structured data, so that users can begin to use language to productively collaborate with their devices through a natural, flowing dialog in which the machine becomes an active conversational collaborator. One of our papers at ACL this year, for instance, demonstrates how we can generate plausible, commonsensical questions in response to a photograph; another explores how we can begin to “translate” between natural language and code.

We’ll also be talking about the latest work in our long-term effort aimed at training neural conversational models from huge volumes of naturally-occurring human conversations, learning how to generate natural-sounding dialog from scratch at each point in a conversation. As natural language dialog becomes an increasingly important direction in interface design, this data-driven approach — pioneered by Microsoft Research —  is emerging as a key research area. One important challenge involves imbuing game/virtual reality characters and personal agents with distinctive personalities, so that their dynamically generated responses sound as if they were produced by a specific, real intelligence. At ACL 2016, we’ll be presenting the first published work on data-driven persona modeling, “A Persona-Based Neural Conversation Model.” This work demonstrates how state-of-the-art neural modeling techniques train conversational agents that “sound like” a specific character. What’s more, the work shows how these techniques permit the persona to adjust its language use to match the linguistic behavior of the person it is talking with; a subtle yet crucial phenomenon that is characteristic of natural human conversation.

Our ultimate goal is to be able to tap the profile of an arbitrary person and generate conversations that accurately emulate that individual’s persona in terms of linguistic response behavior and other salient characteristics. As the paper states, “this would dramatically change the ways in which we interact with dialog agents of all kinds, opening up rich new possibilities for user interfaces. Given a sufficiently large training corpus in which a sufficiently rich variety of speakers is represented, this objective does not seem too far-fetched.”

In addition, Microsoft Research is pleased to cosponsor the 1st Workshop on Representation Learning for NLP, which will discuss recent advances in “vector space models of meaning, compositionality and the application of deep neural networks and spectral methods to NLP” as well as explore future research directions.

If you are going to ACL 2016, please chat with our researchers and scientists about the projects and opportunities at Microsoft that involve solving interesting AI, ML and NLP problems for billions of users. To learn more about our research being presented at ACL 2016, see the sections below for Tutorials, Workshops, Accepted papers and Microsoft attendees.

Conference details

Tutorials

Workshops

Accepted papers

Microsoft attendees

Learn more

The post Microsoft NLP researchers converge at ACL 2016, edging ever closer to human-like conversational experiences appeared first on Microsoft Research.

]]>
Our open source commitment: The proof is in the projects https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/open-source-commitment-proof-projects/ Wed, 27 Jul 2016 22:36:18 +0000 https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/?p=266109 By Miran Lee, Principal Research Program Manager & Winnie Cui, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Asia Openness allows innovation to evolve in unforeseen, novel and exciting ways, and sometimes even provides solutions that no one ever imagined were possible. Getting more done with crowdsourcing One such innovation is GeoMission (geo-location-based mission), a crowdsourcing platform developed […]

The post Our open source commitment: The proof is in the projects appeared first on Microsoft Research.

]]>
By Miran Lee, Principal Research Program Manager & Winnie Cui, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Asia

Openness allows innovation to evolve in unforeseen, novel and exciting ways, and sometimes even provides solutions that no one ever imagined were possible.

Getting more done with crowdsourcing

One such innovation is GeoMission (geo-location-based mission), a crowdsourcing platform developed by MSRA and a team of researchers from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). GeoMission lets users share and accept tasks based on where they are located.

Users submit location-based requests via GeoMission apps, which then push questions to other users near the target location (as long as they meet any additional criteria in the request.)

The project owner Professor Lei Chen from HKUST is introducing GeoMission to audience

The project owner Professor Lei Chen from HKUST is introducing GeoMission to audience

Developed for IOS and Android clients, the GeoMission server platform allows users to initiate requests by audio, video, photo or plain old texting.

All of GeoMission’s source code is hosted on GitHub, providing some critical benefits for a research-based project — like more people! Researchers can intricately study how users interact with the platform, and users can directly contribute to help make it better. Of course, making it open source extends the tools to the greatest possible number of spatial crowdsourcing researchers. Most importantly, we believe opening the source code helps us innovate faster and provide more ways to collaborate with other developers or just about anyone else who’s interested in the project. You can find more details about project at HKUST’s website.

Improving datacenter efficiency with Vortex

In the same spirit of openness, we’ve worked with Professor Byung-Gon Chun from Seoul National University (SNU) to develop Vortex in an effort to address the problem of wasted resources at datacenters. Tapping these sometimes vast computing resources — that remain largely unused outside of peak usage — represents a huge opportunity to improve datacenter efficiency and save energy.

Although current resource managers like Google’s Borg system and Apache Mesos attempt to reclaim idle resources for other tasks, they largely fall short when reclaimed resources are inevitably preempted by latency critical tasks. The more aggressively the resources are reclaimed, the more frequently they’re preempted due to conflict, resulting in transient resources.  The upshot of all this is that current data processing systems that rely on transient resources cannot efficiently complete jobs.

Vortex, on the other hand, maintains high performance despite frequent preemptions. Developed by SNU grad students, Yunseong Lee and Youngseok Yang during their internship at MSRA, the pair are continuing to work on Vortex after returning to school. Joining the project is SNU undergraduate student Geon-Woo Kim along with contributors from other institutions and Microsoft.

Vortex team in SNU (from left to right); Geon-Woo Kim, Youngseok Yang, Byung-Gon Chun, and Yunseong Lee

Vortex team in SNU (from left to right); Geon-Woo Kim, Youngseok Yang, Byung-Gon Chun, and Yunseong Lee

Experimental evaluations have been conducted on Microsoft Azure to measure the Vortex system’s effectiveness. The results show that Vortex can scale out much better with frequently preempted transient resources than Apache Spark. In certain cases, Apache Spark failed to complete jobs.

Hosted on GitHub, Vortex has been developed as an application of Apache REEF — an open source library for big data applications — in what has since proved to be a mutually beneficial project.  Vortex is succeeding in leveraging the Apache methods of growing open source projects: Development issues were openly discussed and pull requests were thoroughly reviewed. Meanwhile, the Apache REEF community was able to closely observe how Vortex uses Apache REEF as well as learn about the overall Vortex requirements.

Vortex

Vortex and GeoMission — as well as other projects like them — clearly have the potential to succeed in the marketplace. However, we believe that releasing them as open source opens the way to greater long term value for the global community of researchers and developers whose collaborative efforts can sometimes trigger unimaginable breakthroughs. At Microsoft Research Asia, we see a future that includes many more opportunities to collaborate with the open source community — to the benefit of all.

Learn more

The post Our open source commitment: The proof is in the projects appeared first on Microsoft Research.

]]>
Researchers team up with Chinese botanists on machine learning, flower-recognition project https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/researchers-team-up-with-chinese-botanists-on-machine-learning-flower-recognition-project/ https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/researchers-team-up-with-chinese-botanists-on-machine-learning-flower-recognition-project/#respond Mon, 25 Jul 2016 14:46:11 +0000 https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/?p=264486 By Guobin Wu, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Asia Has this ever happened to you? You’re out walking with your daughter. She finds a beautiful flower, quizzes you on it, but you’re stumped — you have no idea what it is. Instead of having to admit you don’t know, what if you could quickly […]

The post Researchers team up with Chinese botanists on machine learning, flower-recognition project appeared first on Microsoft Research.

]]>
By Guobin Wu, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Asia

Has this ever happened to you? You’re out walking with your daughter. She finds a beautiful flower, quizzes you on it, but you’re stumped — you have no idea what it is. Instead of having to admit you don’t know, what if you could quickly identify the flower or any other plant wherever you happen to be? But how? At least 250,000 species of flowers exist and even experienced botanists have trouble identifying them all. Now there’s a way thanks to the rising power and sophistication of image recognition and the ease of taking pictures with your smartphone.

Smart Flower Recognition System

It’s called the Smart Flower Recognition System but it might never have happened were it not for a chance encounter last year between Microsoft researchers and botanists at the Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences (IBCAS). Yong Rui, assistant managing director of Microsoft Research Asia (MSRA), was explaining image-recognition technology at a seminar — much to the delight of IBCAS botanists whose own arduous efforts to collect data on regional flower distribution were experiencing poor results. The IBCAS botanists soon realized the potential of MSRA’s image-recognition technology. At the same time, Yong Rui knew he had found the perfect vehicle to improve image recognition while addressing a reality-based problem that benefits society. It also helped that IBCAS had accumulated a massive public store of 2.6 million images. Since anyone in the world could upload pictures to this flower photo dataset — and no human could possibly supervise the uploads — the MSRA team had to create algorithms to filter out the “bad” pictures. That was the first of many difficult problems facing researcher Jianlong Fu and his team in building a tool capable of discerning tiny anomalies among the many species of flowers.

To do so they trained a deep neural network to recognize images using a set of learnable filters. In a nutshell, it works like this:

During the forward pass, each filter is convolved across the width and height of the input volume, computing the dot product between the entries of the filter and the input. This produces a 2-dimensional activation map of that filter. As a result, the network learns filters that activate per specific types of features at a given spatial position in the input.

Inputting millions of pictures into the deep-learning framework, MSRA researchers eventually enabled the engine to accurately identify images more than 90 percent of the time, an astonishing rate just shy of human capabilities.

Caffe deep-learning framework

And the project greatly helped the Chinese botanists in meeting their goals. “The flower-recognition engine enables domain experts to acquire plant distribution in China in an efficient way,” said Zheping Xu, assistant director of IBCAS. “Not only that, this engine can help ordinary people who have a strong interest in flowers to gain more knowledge.”

flower project3.png

In the future, MSRA and IBCAS will continue the collaboration, hoping to create applications based on the flower-recognition engine, so that botanists can conduct their research, parents can appear infallible to their kids, and everyone can appreciate flowers on an even deeper level.

Learn more

The post Researchers team up with Chinese botanists on machine learning, flower-recognition project appeared first on Microsoft Research.

]]>
https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/researchers-team-up-with-chinese-botanists-on-machine-learning-flower-recognition-project/feed/ 0
The next 25 years of research: Disruption, invention and an element of surprise https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/the-next-25-years-of-research-disruption-invention-and-an-element-of-surprise/ https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/the-next-25-years-of-research-disruption-invention-and-an-element-of-surprise/#respond Fri, 22 Jul 2016 16:00:46 +0000 https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/?p=263367 By Allison Linn, Senior Writer, Microsoft Over the next 25 years, research scientists will use technology to better humanity, to make more sense of the world and to use our time more efficiently. We’ll disrupt some industries and invent others. We’ll produce technology that we didn’t even know we wanted – or needed. At a […]

The post The next 25 years of research: Disruption, invention and an element of surprise appeared first on Microsoft Research.

]]>
By Allison Linn, Senior Writer, Microsoft

Bill Gates at the 2016 Microsoft Research Faculty Summit

Bill Gates talks about Future Visions during a fireside chat at the 2016 Microsoft Research Faculty Summit on July 14, 2016. (Photography by Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures)

Over the next 25 years, research scientists will use technology to better humanity, to make more sense of the world and to use our time more efficiently. We’ll disrupt some industries and invent others. We’ll produce technology that we didn’t even know we wanted – or needed.

At a Microsoft gathering of top academic and research scientists in Redmond, Washington, last week, leading thinkers including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates reflected on what computer scientists have accomplished in the last quarter century, and on what they expect to see in the next quarter century.

The annual Faculty Summit coincided with the 25th anniversary of Microsoft Research, which currently has about 1,000 research scientists and engineers in labs throughout the world, working on their own and in collaboration with academic partners.

Related:

Allison Linn is a senior writer at Microsoft. Follow her on Twitter.

The post The next 25 years of research: Disruption, invention and an element of surprise appeared first on Microsoft Research.

]]>
https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/the-next-25-years-of-research-disruption-invention-and-an-element-of-surprise/feed/ 0
Calling all Internet of Things researchers… https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/calling-internet-things-researchers/ https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/calling-internet-things-researchers/#respond Wed, 20 Jul 2016 17:00:13 +0000 https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/?p=259728 By Kenji Takeda, Solutions Architect and Technical Manager and Arjmand Samuel, Principal Program Manager, Microsoft Research We are in the midst of an invisible revolution, with the promise of ubiquitous and pervasive computing not a dream but a newly emerging reality. The nexus of cheap and capable devices, connectivity and cloud computing is rapidly giving shape to […]

The post Calling all Internet of Things researchers… appeared first on Microsoft Research.

]]>
By Kenji Takeda, Solutions Architect and Technical Manager and Arjmand Samuel, Principal Program Manager, Microsoft Research

We are in the midst of an invisible revolution, with the promise of ubiquitous and pervasive computing not a dream but a newly emerging reality. The nexus of cheap and capable devices, connectivity and cloud computing is rapidly giving shape to the Internet of Things (IoT). It’s now delivering real-world impact across multiple industries from agriculture to aviation — as well as redefining the very nature of factories and smart cities. Microsoft is delighted to offer cloud computing resources to IoT researchers around the world through a special Azure for Research IoT call for proposals.

“To maximize the economic and societal benefits of IoT, Social and Physical Scientists, working together, must anticipate and remove barriers to adoption. It also raises the bar on addressing 21st century technological challenges using innovative, collaborative and interdisciplinary research methods. IoT works alongside technologies like cloud analytics, such as Microsoft’s Azure platform, to revolutionize the application of IoT data streams,” explains Professor Jeremy Watson, University College London, who leads the PETRAS Research Hub, launched earlier this year with the aim of developing and deploying a safe and secure IoT.

The Azure IoT Suite provides an easy-to-use platform to connect devices to the cloud, allowing stream analytics, machine learning and powerful visualizations to be quickly integrated. With our open source Azure IoT Gateway SDK, researchers in any domain can experiment and build solutions capable of scaling up to millions of devices. By aggregating data in the cloud, researchers can apply analytics and machine learning to build predictive models that turn data into actionable information. This provides opportunities to take dumb devices and create truly intelligent solutions using your imagination.

There are dozens of examples of how the Microsoft Azure cloud is changing how we think about research and innovation, including:

The Microsoft Azure for Research program provides significant cloud computing resources to researchers across the world, including access to Azure IoT Hub and IoT Suite, along with services such as Azure Machine Learning and Stream Analytics. The application process is quick and simple; the next deadline for IoT proposals is Aug. 15, 2016.  You can apply here and find tips on writing a good proposal here. We are interested in supporting research projects across the spectrum of IoT activities, including the following topics:

  • System design for end-to-end deployment of scaled IoT infrastructure.
  • Security and privacy for IoT scenarios.
  • Machine learning models to detect anomalies and other insights from IoT data.
  • Data visualization to gain insights from large IoT data sets.
  • IoT infrastructure design and deployment challenges in a variety of domains, such as industrial automation, connected cars, smart cities, healthcare and so on.

We are excited to see how Microsoft Azure can empower the IoT research community to achieve more and accelerate the Invisible Revolution to improve lives across the globe, so let us know how Azure can help your project now.

Learn more

The post Calling all Internet of Things researchers… appeared first on Microsoft Research.

]]>
https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/calling-internet-things-researchers/feed/ 0
Microsoft fellowship program supports women in computing https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/microsoft-fellowship-program-supports-women-computing/ Fri, 15 Jul 2016 16:00:00 +0000 https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/?p=256317 By Susan Dumais, Distinguished Scientist, Microsoft Research Women are woefully under-represented in computing-related fields. Despite earning more than half of all baccalaureate degrees throughout North America, women make up fewer than 20 percent of graduates in computer and information sciences, according to the latest figures from the Taulbee Survey. At Microsoft Research, we’re committed to […]

The post Microsoft fellowship program supports women in computing appeared first on Microsoft Research.

]]>
By Susan Dumais, Distinguished Scientist, Microsoft Research

Women's Fellowship Award Recipients

2016 Microsoft Research Women’s Fellowship recipients in order from left to right: Rui Yang, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; Lucia Marisol Villacres Falconi, Georgia Institute of Technology; Jeevana Priya Inala, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Avanti Shrikumar, Stanford University; Helga Gudmundsdottir, University of Washington; Ellen Vitercik, Carnegie Mellon University; Also pictured: Jeannette M. Wing, Microsoft Research; Not pictured: Alane Suhr, Cornell University; Erin Grant, University of California Berkeley; KatieAnna Wolf, Princeton University; Natacha Crooks, University of Texas at Austin (Photography by Jake Knapp)

Women are woefully under-represented in computing-related fields. Despite earning more than half of all baccalaureate degrees throughout North America, women make up fewer than 20 percent of graduates in computer and information sciences, according to the latest figures from the Taulbee Survey.

At Microsoft Research, we’re committed to helping address this imbalance through the Microsoft Research Women’s Fellowship Program. The fellowships directly support female computer scientists as they pursue graduate studies, providing US$20,000 for tuition and conference travel. In addition, the program connects recipients with a Microsoft mentor and researchers in their area of study, and facilitates recipients to interact with each other in a collaborative peer community. The financial support and mentorship provided by the fellowship will enable promising women to excel in their studies and become leaders in the field of computer science.

We are delighted to announce the recipients of the 2016 Microsoft Research Women’s Fellowship. Their research seeks to improve our understanding of a wide range of important topics in computer science including distributed systems and algorithms, artificial intelligence, computational learning theory, human-computer interaction, natural language processing, computational biology, and program synthesis.  The recipients are:

  • Alane Suhr, Cornell University
  • Avanti Shrikumar, Stanford University
  • Ellen Vitercik, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Erin Grant, University of California Berkeley
  • Helga Gudmundsdottir, University of Washington
  • Jeevana Priya Inala, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • KatieAnna Wolf, Princeton University
  • Lucia Marisol Villacres Falconi, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Natacha Crooks, University of Texas at Austin
  • Rui Yang, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Microsoft Research is also proud to support a number of other diversity-related initiatives. The NCWIT Academic Alliance Seed Fund helps U.S. academic institutions develop and implement initiatives for recruiting and retaining women in computer science and information technology (providing up to $10,000 per project).  Our DigiGirlz YouthSpark program is designed to inspire middle- and high-school girls to considered opportunities in computing.  We also support organizations like the Anita Borg Institute, helping them build on the momentum of inspirational, high-impact events such as the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.

Congratulations to the 2016 Microsoft Research Women’s Fellowship recipients! We look forward to exciting new research and leadership.

Learn more

The post Microsoft fellowship program supports women in computing appeared first on Microsoft Research.

]]>
Harry Shum announces MSR Alumni Network https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/harry-shum-announces-msr-alumni-network-on-linkedin/ Thu, 14 Jul 2016 22:00:49 +0000 https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/?p=255987 By Harry Shum, Executive Vice President, Technology and Research, Microsoft Today we launched the Microsoft Research Alumni Network on LinkedIn as part of the 25th Anniversary of Microsoft Research (MSR). The LinkedIn group is dedicated to connecting the thousands of past MSR employees, postdoctoral researchers and interns with us. Together, our alumni and current Microsoft […]

The post Harry Shum announces MSR Alumni Network appeared first on Microsoft Research.

]]>
By Harry Shum, Executive Vice President, Technology and Research, Microsoft

Harry Shum & Bill Gates at Faculty Summit 2016

Harry Shum & Bill Gates talk about Future Visions during a fireside chat at the 2016 Microsoft Research Faculty Summit on July 14, 2016. (Photography by Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures)

Today we launched the Microsoft Research Alumni Network on LinkedIn as part of the 25th Anniversary of Microsoft Research (MSR). The LinkedIn group is dedicated to connecting the thousands of past MSR employees, postdoctoral researchers and interns with us. Together, our alumni and current Microsoft researchers have published more than 20,000 papers — much of it in open collaboration with leading universities around the world. The expertise and ground-breaking work from these researchers represents a rich legacy across many areas such as machine learning, computer vision, systems, theory, quantum computing, formal methods, robotics, networking, human computer interaction, data visualization, security, privacy, cryptography and multimedia.

MSR has provided the home for outstanding computer scientists who have gone on to leading positions in academia and industry including: Alex Acero (169 publications at MSR, now with Apple), Jim Larus (55 publications at MSR, now with EPFL) and Andrew Blake (97 publications at MSR, now with the UK’s Alan Turing Institute) — all of whom were part of MSR for 15 years or more.

Membership in the Alumni Network is free and not only provides connections to Microsoft Researchers, but will include a range of opportunities to reconnect with other members through both virtual and in-person events as well as early insight into breaking news, technologies and research trends.

Invitations to join the group will go out shortly to all former MSR employees. MSR alumni can request entry to the group: MSR Alumni Network.

Related links:

The post Harry Shum announces MSR Alumni Network appeared first on Microsoft Research.

]]>