Posted by Rob Knies

Microsoft Research Asia headquarters

Welcome to Inside Microsoft Research, a new blog that provides news and insights into research conducted at our 12 facilities around the world. We are privileged to inaugurate the blog by detailing the events being held around the globe on Sept. 27 to mark the 20th anniversary of Microsoft Research. We begin by taking a look at what is happening in Beijing, home of Microsoft Research Asia.

It’s the evening of Sept. 26 at Microsoft’s Redmond, Wash., headquarters, but in China, it’s already the morning on Sept. 27. Craig Mundie, Microsoft chief research and strategy officer, will open the festivities—which will follow the sun around the world to symposiums in Bangalore, India; Cambridge, U.K.; Cambridge, Mass.; Mountain View, Calif.; and Redmond—by welcoming an audience of faculty members, researchers, scientists, students, and industry partners.

Mundie also announced Tiger, the next-generation index-serving platform for Bing, before welcoming special guest E. James Prendergast, executive director of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, who offered his congratulations to Microsoft Research. Then Hsiao-Wuen Hon, managing director of Microsoft Research Asia, provided introductory remarks.

“Today, Microsoft Research commemorates two decades of invention, exploration, and contributions to the world of technology and science,” Hon said. “We look forward to the next 20 years of collaborating within Microsoft and throughout industry and academia to create technologies that can help change business, life, and society.”

The central focus of the Beijing symposium consisted of a series of 11 technical presentations from Microsoft Research Asia researchers and faculty guests examining a gamut of projects ranging from work on eHeritage to a series of presentations entitled Innovations in Systems and Software.

One of the most captivating was a presentation on Kinect-based object digitization, which enables the creation of 3-D objects based on just a couple of snapshots. Color and depth images of the front and back of an object are registered quickly in two dimensions, and GPU-based surface reconstruction results in a smooth 3-D model.

In an explanatory video, Minmin Gong, a research software-development engineer, explained how Kinect for Xbox 360 enables the development of new techniques to refine applications.

“The Kinect motion sensor,” Gong said, “helps developers unlock even greater potential in their applications. We provide a unique experience that enables users to control and play their favorite games in a new way.”

Gesture control in Kinect represents cutting-edge gaming technology. Equipped with an RGB camera, a depth sensor, and a microphone array, Kinect gathers information on depth, shapes, materials, and motion.

The Kinect scan data, though, takes about 20 seconds to render—not a long time, but far too long for the needs of avid gamers. The Microsoft Research Asia researchers, however, use Poisson surface reconstruction to transform the data into something more useful, then utilize a hybrid framework of CPU and GPU to perform calculations that result in the digitization of an object in less than two seconds. Suddenly, the speed is quick enough to be valuable in real-time game play.

“We hope,” says Xin Sun, an associate researcher at the facility, “through these efforts to enrich the user experience of Kinect object digitization.”

Gong seems confident that will occur.

“Our current work is only the first step,” he says. “In the future, it will become faster, more accurate, and more realistic.”

Making Bing Even More Efficient

Search engines have become an integral part of the everyday lives of millions of people worldwide, and the improvement of search technology requires advances in efficiency and invention. Index serving is a critical infrastructure for search engines, and that’s what Tiger will enhance.

The Tiger architecture uses emerging solid-state disk technology to improve the overall efficiency of the results Bing can provide. The advancement offers a significant performance gain and substantial cost savings, resulting in faster, more relevant search results. In addition, Tiger opens the door for even more improvements.

Historically, Microsoft Research has generated technological advances that deliver increased search and cloud-computing efficiency to Bing, and the Tiger announcement is just the latest example of the many technology transfers Microsoft Research contributes to Microsoft products.

Next: On to Bangalore!