Portrait of Lenin Ravindranath Sivalingam

Lenin Ravindranath Sivalingam

Principal Researcher


I am a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research. I currently lead the Watch For team in Special Projects. I graduated with a PhD from MIT in 2014 [student page]. Since joining Microsoft, I have mainly focused on intrapreneurial efforts – developing new ideas, building them out through startup-like incubations and leading them to business impact. The projects I founded and built have been used across Microsoft platforms including Xbox, Bing, Azure, Windows, LinkedIn, MSN, Mixer and Flipgrid.

Watch For (2018 – current)
Watch For is a large-scale, low-cost, highly programmable media AI platform used by several large organizations at Microsoft. Watch For’s infrastructure is designed to address a broad range of verticals from digital safety to gaming analytics. Watch For processes billions of media content every month and powers dozens of experiences with a reach of hundreds of millions of users. I co-founded Watch For, built the platform and currently lead its operations with a team of researchers, engineers and product managers.

  • Watch For powers digital safety solutions for several organizations in Microsoft including Xbox, Flipgrid, Bing, MSN, LinkedIn, Mixer.
  • Watch For powers Bing’s live stream search serving hundreds of millions of user queries.
  • Watch For powers AI experiences in the MSN Esports Hub including Search, Spotlight and Highlights.
  • Watch For powered Mixer’s HypeZone reaching tens of millions of users. HypeZone was widely featured in the press. Watch For also powered Loot and other innovative AI features on Mixer.
  • I was featured on BBC Click for Watch For-HypeZone work along with a story on Microsoft: What went right under Satya Nadella?
  • Watch For was featured on a Fast Company article on Microsoft’s AI pipeline.
  • Watch For was inducted into The Garage Wall of Fame.
  • Watch For was the Grand Prize Winner at Microsoft’s One Week Hackathon 2017 among 18,000 participants. It also won the Garage Favorite Award at the Microsoft Redmond Science Fair.
  • Watch For’s COVID Hack project was selected as one of the 10 projects across the company to be showcased to the Senior Leadership Team as part of Microsoft’s COVID response.
  • Watch For (in collaboration with Microsoft Esports) won the Hack for Growth Ideas challenge at the Microsoft One Week Hackathon 2020.
  • Lookout (a precursor to Watch For) won the Best Demo Award at ACM MobiSys 2017. Glimpse (an earlier work in the live video analytics space) was an ACM SIGMOBILE Research Highlight (awarded to a small number of papers each year).
  • I received Individual Performance Awards at Microsoft for my work on Watch For.
  • I have presented Watch For to the Senior Leadership Team (CEO + EVPs) on multiple occasions.

Torch (2016 – 2018)
Torch is a software system that uncovers hard-to-find bugs in large-scale cloud systems with zero developer effort. I co-founded the Torch project, built the first version and worked with lighthouse customers (in Azure) to find the first 100 bugs.

  • Torch is currently used in thousands of software projects in Microsoft.
  • I was featured on Microsoft Research Podcast to discuss my work on Torch.
  • I received the Microsoft Research Redmond Rockstar Award (2017). Citation: for programmer productivity tools and techniques with broad applicability in mobile & distributed systems. Rockstar award recognizes an individual who has made outstanding engineering or research contributions to Microsoft and the external research community during the early part of her or his career.
  • Torch received the Microsoft Research Redmond Exemplary Collaboration Award (2017).
  • I received Individual Performance Award at Microsoft for my work on Torch.
  • I have presented Torch to leadership teams across the company.

Embedded Social (2014 – 2016)
Microsoft Embedded Social (ES) provides communities-as-a-service and enables applications to increase user engagement. I co-founded ES, wrote much of its scalable backend and engaged with pilot customers.

  • ES shipped with Remix 3D as part of Windows 10, Microsoft Academic Service and other third-party applications. Through these applications, ES had a reach of 20 million users.
  • Recognized for my work in ES, I was part of Microsoft LabOne (Bench/HiPo) Program 2015 (awarded to top 1% high performing employees across the entire company).

AppInsight + related efforts in Developer Productivity (2011 – 2015)
I drove AppInsight and many of its related efforts as part of my PhD thesis work. AppInsight provides a lightweight binary instrumentation framework for mobile and cloud applications and enables developers to monitor and debug their applications both before and in production.

  • AppInsight’s automation framework was used by Windows Phone to find bugs in the OS.
  • AppInsight was used by a few Microsoft Window Phone Apps to collect telemetry data from the wild.
  • Facebook’s mobile app monitoring was inspired by AppInsight and deployed to all(!) Android Facebook users.
  • Our patents on this work were part of large Microsoft + third-party collaboration deals.

VTrack + related efforts in Mobile Sensing (2008 – 2012)
At MIT, along with my collaborators, I did much of the early work in smartphone sensing and mobile telematics.

TwitReviews (2010 – 2011)
I built TwitReviews, a consumer app that did large-scale sentiment analysis on Twitter streams.

  • TwitReviews (Windows Gadget) was downloaded by more than a million users. It was also released as a Windows Phone app.
  • TwitReviews was featured on the Microsoft Windows Gadget front page.
  • TwitReviews was the Grand Prize Winner at MIT-Microsoft Windows 7 Gadget Competition.
  • TwitReviews won the Best Project Award in the MIT 6.864 NLP course.

Undergraduate work (pre 2008)

  • MIT – Cisco Graduate Fellowship (2008).
  • Finalist, Code4Bill (2006). Awarded Top 20 student technologists in India (2006).
  • Gold Medal, Anna University (CEG) for top GPA across all disciplines (2006).
  • Indian Prime Minister’s Guest of Honor at the Republic Day Parade (2006).
  • TCS Best Student Award (2006).
  • Selected for the MSR India Intern Program (2005) as one of 8 undergraduates from India to intern at MSR, Redmond.
  • Annual Day Award and Alumni Association Award for highest GPA (2004, 2005).
  • 5th place, Asia Regional Finals (2005), 30th ACM ICPC Programming Contest, India.
  • President, Computer Society of Anna University (2006).
  • Executive Member, ACM Chapter of Anna University (2006).
  • Event organizer for several inter- and intra-college puzzle, project and programming events (2002 – 2005).
  • Winner of several inter-college programming and project competitions (2002 – 2006).
  • Meritorious Student Award, Tamil Nadu Government, for high performance in Higher Secondary Examination (2002).

Other Microsoft Activities

  • Microsoft DTR committee (2018), Microsoft TechFest Chair (2019).
  • Microsoft Research nominee for NAE-FOE (3 years).
  • Organizer, 1st, 2nd and 3rd Microsoft Redmond Research Lab Puzzle Hunt (2017 – 2019).
  • Winner (2015) at Microsoft Research Halloween Decoration Contest.
  • Organizer and Puzzle Master at 1st and 2nd Microsoft Research India Puzzle Hunt (2007 – 2008).