Microsoft Research Cambridge offers fact not fiction at Science Open Day


Microsoft Research Cambridge (MSRC), Microsoft's research facility covering Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), launched the first MSRC Science Open Day this week with a showcase of several new pieces of scientific research, designed to push the boundaries of computing through technical innov


Ranging from new home networking tools to devices which explore the relationship between humans and computing, the event on Wednesday was the largest display of EMEA-based technology research projects from Microsoft Research this year. The event was designed to explore the role of science in technology research and highlight that modern technology is founded on scientific thought as well as technical innovation.

'We're delighted to be able to demonstrate what we consider to be some of the most advanced computer science research currently being undertaken across EMEA', offered Andrew Herbert, managing director, Microsoft Research Cambridge.

'The common thread throughout these projects is their dependence and basis on scientific theory and thought. So much of our everyday lives are already based on science and whilst we are all aiming to push the boundaries of modern computing, it's the pursuit of furthering science that really drives this facility's research.'

The MSRC Science Open Day featured research projects from the following divisions within the facility:

Machine Learning and Perception

The machine learning and perception group presented two new projects. i2i is a new camera technology that uses dual cameras and stereo imaging techniques to give a number of enhanced video conferencing capabilities.

Founded on new computer algorithms, invented by the i2i team, the technology provides a virtual personal cameraman which tracks the user, panning and zooming in realtime to improve the quality of visual communication. In addition, the technology can dynamically replace the background of a scene to make a user appear to be in an alternative location.

i2i also introduces the concept of 3D Emoticons, which takes traditional emoticons found in email and messenger products to the next level by allowing three dimensional objects to be inserted into a scene - a light bulb of inspiration that floats above the user's head for example.

Grabcut is a research project which allows users to greatly reduce the time and effort required to cut and paste elements in digital images. Using new mathematical models and algorithms, Grabcut amplifies the work done by users, so that they can select any part of an image simply by dragging a rectangle around that portion of the picture. The technology showcased in the Grabcut project can make it possible to cut and paste sections of images far quicker than with existing tools.

Programming Principles and Tools

The Programming Principles and Tools group announced the Samoa project, research which explores ways to provide formal security for web services.

The Samoa team are working on prototype tools, based on recent advances in theoretical computer science, to analyse the security of deployed web services. Refinements of these tools could, one day, be used to prevent subtle but potentially serious vulnerabilities in the future, service-oriented, Internet.

Interactive Systems Group

The newly founded Interactive Systems Group demonstrated the SenseCam research project, exploring a wearable personal image recorder which acts as a human black box, allowing the wearer to capture a digital diary of their day.

The Interactive Systems Group announced that they are discussing the use of SenseCam with Addenbrookes, the Cambridge-based NHS Trust, regarding collaboration and possible trials of the device with patients suffering from Alzheimers and other memory loss conditions.

'The SenseCam research project could provide certain patients, suffering from memory loss, with the ability to keep a visual diary of their memories and, potentially, improve their quality of life,' commented Dr Narinder Kapur, Addenbrookes.

'Working with Microsoft Research Cambridge really shows the way in which scientific research can benefit the medical sector and we are pleased to be involved in a research project which could have real benefits to patients one day.'

About Microsoft Research

Founded in 1991, Microsoft Research is dedicated to conducting both basic and applied research in computer science and software engineering. Its goal is to develop new technologies that simplify and enhance the user's computing experience, reduce the cost of writing and maintaining software, and facilitate the creation of new types of software.

Microsoft Research employs more than 600 people, focusing on more than 40 areas of computing. Researchers in five facilities on three continents collaborate with leading academic, government and industry researchers to simplify and enhance technology in such areas as speech recognition, user-interface research, programming tools and methodologies, operating systems and networking, graphics, natural language processing, and mathematical sciences.

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At Microsoft Research in Cambridge, we truly aspire to transform the world through deep research. The bold and inquisitive minds of our researchers and engineers have produced, and continue to produce, significant contributions to Microsoft’s most successful products and services, as well as to the broader research community. The interdisciplinary nature of our lab ensures that we push the boundaries of computing in an inclusive way, resulting in robust and trusted technologies that can be deployed at scale. We have only scratched the surface of what technology can do for us, and I am tremendously excited to be working in a team that is so committed to having a significant impact upon our society.

Microsoft Research Ltd