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Posted by Rob Knies
Computing today is generating and capturing a wealth of data previously unimaginable. Such information has great promise for unlocking some of society’s most elusive secrets, but how can those secrets be unearthed and identified?That pursuit provided the impetus behind Big Data Analytics 2013, a first-ever workshop held at Microsoft Research Cambridge on May 23-24. More than 130 participants from academia and industry—including a strong contingent from the hosting lab, Microsoft Research Redmond, Microsoft Research Silicon Valley, and Advanced Technology Labs Europe—gathered to discuss and identify the most important and challenging directions for the evolution of algorithms and systems for big data.“The organization of the workshop was prompted by a surge of interest and activity in the area of big-data analytics,” says Milan Vojnovic, co-organizer of the event and senior researcher in the Cambridge Systems and Networking group, “including platforms for various kinds of processing, such as batch processing and querying of massive data sets, real-time analytics, streaming computations, and analytics on special data structures such as graphical data.
Moshe Tennenholtz is an accomplished man. An Israel-based principal researcher with Microsoft Research New England, he has performed pioneering work bridging computer science, artificial intelligence, and game theory. He also has co-founded several e-commerce companies. Given such a varied, successful background, there’s little these days that can faze him.Yet when he learned he had been named winner of the 2012 Allen Newell Award from the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, he couldn’t have been more surprised.“It was announced to me by phone by the chair of the committee [Eric Grimson, chancellor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology],” Tennenholtz says. “I didn’t even know what he wanted to talk to me about.”
We live in a society obsessed with speed. Whether it’s download times on a mobile phone or Usain Bolt’s time in the 100 meters, the faster the better. We also live during an era when accuracy has become not just preferable but essential. The technological marvels of the 21st century demand it.Speed=good. Accuracy=good. Put them together, and you’ve got a leap forward, such as recent advancements in Bing Voice Search for Windows Phone that enable customers to get faster, more accurate results than ever before.Those improvements come, in part, from contributions delivered via Microsoft Research’s work on deep neural networks (DNNs). Such networks are a computational framework for automatic pattern recognition that is inspired by the basic circuits of the human brain. Refinements in mathematical formulas, coupled with greater computational power and large data sets, enable DNNs to learn and edge noticeably closer than traditional speech technologies to humans’ ability to recognize speech and images.
You might not be aware of the term “continuous mobile vision,” but I’ll bet there’s a good chance you are aware of one of the scenarios it could enable.Remember the concept, bandied about in recent years, of technology that can remind you of a person’s name once her or his face has been detected? Yeah, that one. I’m sure that most of us could make use of it once in a while.The problem, though, is that image sensing takes lots of energy. That’s because modern image sensors lack energy proportionality. They’re power-hungry. That’s fine when a high-resolution, high-frame-rate image is desired. But even when you’re not seeking images of that quality, today’s image sensors still consume a lot of power.Someday soon, though, things could change for the better. That’s the premise behind the paper Energy Characterization and Optimization of Image Sensing Toward Continuous Mobile Vision, which has been accepted for presentation during MobiSys 2013, the 11th International Conference on Mobile Systems, Applications and Services, being held June 25-28 in Taipei, Taiwan.
The changes wrought by technology in recent years is nothing short of astounding. First, music became digitized. Now, it’s video, in all its forms. That data can be stored, comfortably and effectively, in the cloud. And many of us walk around each day with little computers in our pockets.On these miniature marvels—known commonly, if not completely accurately, as “mobile phones”—we can achieve something humans have dreamed of for decades: the ability to call a loved one and actually see that person as we chat.That’s fantastic, right? Well, as the saying goes, you ain’t seen nothing yet.On June 8, during the Science EXPO Day being held at Seattle Center as part of the Seattle Science Festival, Microsoft Research will be showing a half-dozen technology demonstrations designed to fire the imaginations of youths attending the event. And among them will be one that not only lets you see somebody as you hold a conversation, but also experience their presence in 3-D—while you talk.