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Posted by Andrew Blake, managing director of Microsoft Research Cambridge
As ever, at the core of Microsoft Research Cambridge’s work is participation in academic research across the world. Our publication activity is too prolific to detail, but we regularly hit the top conferences and journals. Notably, our staff co-authored eight papers this year on human-computer interaction at CHI, and seven at POPL, the premier conference for programming languages.
There was a scientific landmark in September. Georges Gonthier announced the culmination of a six-year project with our joint research centre at INRIA, Paris that produced a formal proof of the Feit-Thompson Theorem, the first major step of the classification of finite simple groups. It used the proof system Coq and strengthened it appreciably in the process. Coq is also important for verification of security-critical code.We had plenty of media attention this year, particularly on blending virtual and physical spaces. KinÊtre, Touchless Interaction in Medical Imaging, and Digits all created a significant buzz. Two of those came from the i3D group, a new, cross-disciplinary collaboration on natural user interaction, a subject that could help shape how we relate to computers and computer-controlled technology. Not to be outdone, our IT team hit the press too, explaining its innovative approach to running effective data centres.
Posted by Jennifer Chayes, managing director of Microsoft Research New York City
The inaugural year of Microsoft Research New York City has been stupendous. All of us at Microsoft are thrilled with our newest lab.The lab officially opened on May 3, 2012, with the announcement of a group of 15 founding researchers: David Pennock, Sébastien Lahaie, Justin Rao, David Rothschild, and Giro Cavallo in algorithmic, computational, and empirical economics; Duncan Watts, Dan Goldstein, Sharad Goel, Sid Suri, and Jake Hofman in computational and behavioral social science; John Langford, Miro Dudik, and Alekh Agarwal in machine learning; and Fernando Diaz and Elad Yom-Tov in information retrieval. Together, these researchers bring a deeply original and phenomenally productive approach to data science, particularly in the domains of economics and the social sciences.In the fall, the group was joined by one more member, Jenn Wortman Vaughan, who has done research in machine learning, algorithmic economics, and social science, and who, therefore, was a great match for the lab.
Posted by Surajit Chaudhuri, managing director of the eXtreme Computing Group
2012 has been a year of significant developments for the eXtreme Computing Group (XCG), from changes in its organizational structure to project milestones we reached.
One year ago, XCG had several teams with specific technical focus and expertise, in addition to a large but separate engineering group. The intent of such an organizational structure was to have the engineering team not only incubate some of its own project ideas but also to step in and contribute to projects in other parts of XCG. Despite good intentions, such an organizational structure did not serve XCG well. I discovered that it encouraged fragmentation and conflict of interest instead of promoting collaboration. Therefore, we made a few organizational changes. Today, our engineering resources—researchers, developers, program managers—are organized exclusively by their technical expertise, and we no longer have a separate engineering team. XCG has responded well to this change, accomplished early in the year, and we are a more cohesive team than ever before.
Posted by Eric Horvitz and Yi-Min Wang, managing co-directors of Microsoft Research Redmond
As we look back on the year at Microsoft Research Redmond, a flood of creative efforts and achievements come to mind. These include mission-focused pursuits aimed at solving urgent challenges, the pursuit of new understandings at the foundations of computer science, and blue-sky initiatives exploring new possibilities. Notable developments, honors, and influences are far too numerous to include in a short blog post, so we can touch on only a small subset of representative milestones.On the foundations front, a stunning set of experiments provided evidence for an elusive particle named the Majorana fermion. A team at the Delft University of Technology, led by Leo Kouwenhoven, used an experimental setup proposed and funded by our Station Q. Majoranas have been proposed as central in enabling an approach to quantum computing being pursued at Station Q.
Posted by Roy Levin, managing director of Microsoft Research Silicon Valley
Transferring research results into products and services is always a challenging part of Microsoft Research’s job. No two transfers ever happen quite the same way. This year, Microsoft Research Silicon Valley had a tech-transfer experience that is, I believe, unique in the history of Microsoft Research—at least, I can’t remember one of a similar sort in the 11 years I’ve been here.
The technology in this case is a novel form of erasure codes, called “locally reconstructable codes,” that can make a dramatic improvement in the resources required to provide necessary redundancy in a storage-based service. These codes have substantially better space efficiency than classic Reed-Solomon codes, as well as better performance both in normal operation and during error recovery. It is surprising and gratifying that even in a field that has been explored so extensively, it is still possible to make important discoveries.