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Tech Innovation At The Microsoft Research Tech Fair

Text Entry For Phones Using Speech

  • Milind Mahajan, researcher, Microsoft Research, Redmond, Wash.

Sending text messages using a phone is a common scenario, but text entry using the usual telephone keypad with its 0 through 9 keys is a cumbersome process. Microsoft researchers have developed a press-and-talk method of text entry that combines the telephone keypad with speech input to make text messaging easier. With this innovative technology, users can press a key on the mobile device indicating they will be speaking a word for recognition. The technology will recognize the word and display it for confirmation or modification. In noisy environments, or in those cases where the spoken word is difficult to recognize, the user can press the numeric keys that correspond to the first few letters of the word to aid in recognition. The spoken word, combined with the keystroke, narrows the search space.

Your Desktop On Your Key Chain

  • Andrew Birrell, senior researcher, Microsoft Research, Silicon Valley
  • Dennis Fetterly, technologist, Microsoft Research, Silicon Valley
  • Ted Wobber, researcher, Microsoft Research, Silicon Valley

Imagine being able to call up your own desktop environment from a public-use (kiosk) machine. Microsoft researchers have developed a way to host user desktops as virtual machines, utilizing a virtual-disk design. The virtual-disk design allows for an efficient access to your desktop state held in the network. Small and cheap flash-based disks are used to capture the virtual machine memory state and act as a cache for the virtual disk. This allows users to save their desktop in a particular state (i.e., the E-mail in-box in is view, a particular Word is document open, a specific slide deck running and the calendar is open to a particular day), and see the same desktop when they move to a kiosk. This technology offers a welcome alternative for information workers and other mobile users that helps alleviate the need for them to carry bulky, fragile, and theft-prone laptops.

Security And Online Safety

  • Simon Conant, Security Program Manager, Microsoft
  • Brian Fielder, strategic security adviser, National Security Team
  • Debby Fry Wilson, director, Security Response Marketing and Communications
  • Craig Spiezle, director, Technology Care & Safety Group

Meet individuals from some of Microsoft's security teams and learn about Microsoft's efforts and technologies available today to help protect customers. We'll be providing guidance on how you can help protect yourself from unwanted software, spam, phishing scams and other forms of malicious online activities. Demos of the Windows AntiSpyware (beta), and the Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool will be available. Learn how the AntiSpyware tool can virtually eliminate spyware and how the software removal tool identifies and removes malicious software from Windows XP, Windows 2000 and Windows Server 2003 systems. Team members will also provide insight to Microsoft's efforts in the industry to combat spam, phishing, and viruses. Understand current security product technologies, and get up to date on Microsoft's commitment to promote a safer online computing environment.

Helping Kinsey Compute: Statistics With Secrecy

  • Cynthia Dwork, senior researcher, Microsoft Research, Silicon Valley
  • Frank McSherry, researcher, Microsoft Research, Silicon Valley

Is it possible to safely mine confidential data? Consider a medical database that's rich in useful, but also confidential, patient information. How can scientists use this data to learn life facts, such as the link between smoking and lung cancer, without compromising individual privacy? Can we produce descriptions of typical people without revealing information about any specific person? The Microsoft Research project code-named "Helping Kinsey Compute" defines a novel database-query interface that permits great statistical accuracy while provably ensuring privacy. It works by adding a small amount of noise, based upon the number of queries to be performed, but not depending on the size of the database, to each answer. This means that if the database is very large, we are adding a (relatively) tiny amount of noise and so obtaining excellent statistical accuracy while provably maintaining privacy. This innovative privacy technology will give research scientists access to greater sources of data and deeper analysis.

Remote Photo Browsing Via Smart Phone

  • Steve Glenner, research software developer engineer, Microsoft Research, Redmond
  • Curtis Wong, senior research program manager, Microsoft Research, Redmond

Carry a lifetime of photo albums in your pocket. With smart-phone photo-browsing software users can easily access, browse, and share the digital photos stored on their home PC with their cell phone. The technology allows users to view, browse, annotate (with voice or keywords) any of the thousands of digital photos on their PC through the cellular General Packet Radio Service network. Photos taken with the smart phone are automatically sent directly to the PC for storage and available for viewing. Through pop-up directories, keywords, date ranges, or a favorites list, photos can be quickly and easily located and viewed as thumbnails or in full size. Users can also zoom and pan the images and share them with friends and family via E-mail, remote display or other devices.

JamBayes: A Mobile Traffic Forecasting Service

  • Johnson Apacible, research software developer engineer, Microsoft Research, Redmond
  • Eric Horvitz, senior researcher and research area manager, Microsoft Research, Redmond

How often do you leave your house only to be met by bumper-to-bumper traffic? Technology developed by Microsoft Research that has been code-named "JamBayes" uses real-time data that takes into account factors such as the weather, past traffic patterns, the day of the week, construction, and whether there's a major event taking place to not only alert users to current traffic conditions, but also predict upcoming traffic scenarios--when and where bottlenecks will form and when they will melt away.


  • Johnson Apacible, research software developer engineer, Microsoft Research, Redmond
  • Eric Horvitz, senior researcher and research area manager, Microsoft Research, Redmond

The Microsoft Research project code-named "LifeBrowser" is a time-line-centric search and browsing system that allows users to search their memories just as they would search the Internet. The interface learns how to automatically render a "memory backbone" containing a rich time line of landmarks that includes photos, calendar events, and desktop and meeting activities. Users can access a news event on the time line such as "Seattle Earthquake," or personal events, such as "travel to D.C." or "group off-site," and E-mails they had sent or received, documents they had worked on, and Web sites they had visited. A memorability slider allows users to control the detail displayed in the memory backbone. They can display just a few most memorable events or include a larger number of events, some of which will be categorized as less memorable. As a result, people are able to locate things more easily. This technology also jogs their memories when the details are starting to fade. With a landmark, users can access information at the edge of memory.

Community Bar: Enriching The Browsing Experience

  • Eric Brill, senior researcher, Microsoft Research, Redmond
  • Matthew Richardson, researcher, Microsoft Research, Redmond
  • Adam Sheppard, lead product manager, MSN Portal

The project code-named "Community Bar" is a plug-in-based system that enables a more interactive, personalized and community-based Web browsing experience. With the application, which sits to the side of the browser, users can access additional information that could be used to evaluate a Web page's claims, post a comment about a page, and even make the browsing experience more fun through interaction with other browsers. The technology enables instant chatting with others looking at similar content or pages, blogging, and site-specific searches. The tool also helps users find similar Web pages and save favorites. This technology brings a new dynamic to browsing, information exchange, social interaction, and entertainment.

Web Applications And Services

  • Natasa Milic-Frayling, researcher, Microsoft Research, Cambridge

Microsoft research in the area of Web information access and communication has resulted in the development of several mobile prototype applications and services. One such technology is SmartNavigation. SmartNavigation extends the standard browser and provides highly personalized support for the user's routine online activities. It is facilitated by a detailed analysis of users' Web activities and enables users to easily revisit pages and sites they have seen before. Research applications code-named "mGuide" and "dClone" for the smart phone, coupled with Journeys and weConnect Web services, will be demonstrated to illustrate how combining mobile applications and Web services can support novel ways of exchanging information among desktops and mobile phone users. The "mGuide" prototype for smart phones, for example, demonstrates how mobile and Web technologies can be integrated to combine information such as images captured using camera phones and voice messages recorded by the user, with online services like Microsoft MapPoint to facilitate communication between users aiming to meet at a particular location.

Biology And Machine Learning

  • Nebojsa Jojic, Researcher, Microsoft Research, Redmond

Advances in biological testing allow researchers to collect more data than ever. But the tools necessary to discover patterns in this data have not advanced as quickly. Microsoft researchers have discovered that some of the pattern-recognition, data-mining, and visualization techniques that have been successful in automatic analysis of other types of data, such as photographs or spam E-mails, are also well suited to deriving new biological insights and medical treatments. In collaboration with the scientific community, Microsoft researchers have already started using these techniques to help advance HIV vaccine research. In particular, these techniques have been found to be potentially useful for the discovery of the right set of vaccine components needed to prepare a patient's immune system for this highly variable virus. This example of using machine learning and data-mining technology has only scratched the surface of what computers can help do to advance scientific endeavors.

University Relations--eSciences: Furthering Science Through Technology

  • Dan Fay, program manager, Microsoft Research University Relations
  • Blair Jennings, San Diego Supercomputer Center
  • Todd Needham, manager, Microsoft Research Programs Groups, Microsoft

As computational technologies improve and advance, emerging technologies like Web services and smart clients are having a deep impact on science and research. The San Diego Supercomputer Center Notebook Project is a data-management, data-access, data-storage, and data-sharing application for researchers and knowledge workers using emerging technologies such as Web services and Extensible Application Markup Language. At its simplest level, the application may be thought of as a Web browser for next-generation online services that manages and keeps track of the vast amounts of available data, as well as assimilating data from legacy data sources. The smart-client applications for science showcase the benefits of integrating emerging technologies with new applications or existing ones such as Office. This project is the result of collaboration between scientists at Microsoft Research and the University of San Diego.

University Relations--Mobile Computing And User Interface Research

  • Brad Myers, Human Computer Interaction Institute, Carnegie Mellon University
  • John SanGiovanni, technical evangelist, Microsoft
  • Jake Wobbrock, Human Computer Interaction Institute, Carnegie Mellon University

Representatives from Microsoft's academic partners at Carnegie Mellon University will be showcasing novel mobile, wireless, and user-interface technologies. Pebbles is a large-scale research project that is investigating how handhelds such as PDAs and mobile phones can be used to enhance and augment interactions on regular PCs and appliances. The team from Carnegie Mellon's HCI Institute is working on automatically creating control panels on handhelds for everyday appliances such as video camcorders and copiers. EdgeWrite is a new text-entry method designed for high tactility, physical stability, and compactness. It works on a variety of common input devices, such as handhelds, touch pads, joysticks, and trackballs. The text-entry technology is aimed at providing low-cost accessibility solutions to people with motor impairments resulting from cerebral palsy, Parkinson's disease, and many others. Citrine is an application that improves the cut-copy-paste interaction technique. It shows an example of the seamless integration of intelligent interfaces with current interaction techniques.


  • Andy Wilson, researcher, Microsoft Research, Redmond

The Microsoft Research project code-named "PlayAnywhere" is a surface computing project that transforms any ordinary surface, such as a table or whiteboard, into an interactive input/output display. Researchers use computer vision technology to sense when the user touches the surface and reason about other objects placed on the surface, such as game pieces. A computer, a projector and an image-processing system analyze incoming images from a video camera to realize what is happening on the surface and react. The surface computing configuration and unique technology open up many new possibilities in computing. Consider a combined sensor-projector-computation pod that a child can set up on the floor, creating an imaginary playfield. Surface computing has several information worker applications as well. Imagine setting a cup of coffee on the surface and having the morning news flow around it. In a meeting setting, everyone attending would place their smart card on the surface so that the system could recognize everyone and automatically project their personal documents related to the meeting and each attendee.

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