How Microsoft and Novartis created Assess MS


February 8, 2016


Several years ago, the biotech company Novartis came to Microsoft because they had seen the Kinect system for Xbox game consoles and thought the body movement sensors might be helpful for tracking the progression of multiple sclerosis. That, in turn, could help them more consistently judge whether a treatment they were proposing was working. Microsoft researchers were intrigued, and called upon their experts in machine learning to create algorithms that could more accurately measure the subtle changes in movement that can occur as MS progresses. The Assess MS project also brought in Microsoft’s experts in human-computer interaction, who were able to help design a specialized system that would work in a real-world hospital setting, where medical professionals with no specialized technical skills would be asked to operate the machine in cramped exam rooms. The collaboration between Microsoft Research’s Cambridge, UK, lab and Novartis holds the promise of helping doctors more quickly bring better treatments to patients who are suffering from MS, by offering more consistent analysis of whether the treatments are helping patients.

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