Microsoft Research Cambridge: 2012 in Review

Microsoft Research Cambridge: 2012 in Review

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Posted by Andrew Blake, managing director of Microsoft Research Cambridge

Microsoft Research 2012 in Review logo

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.

Many members of our staff received accolades during the year, and I’d like to mention a few. Neil Dalchau won the Tansley Medal for young scientists in the plant sciences. Jamie Shotton was joint winner, with the Kinect for Xbox 360 team, of a Microsoft Technical Achievement Award and smiled down from banners around the Microsoft campus in Redmond. Luca Cardelli won the exotically named Rozenberg Tulip Award for research into programming biomolecular systems. And Miguel Castro joined the hall of fame of Mark Weiser Award winners for creativity and innovation in operating-systems research.

Andrew BlakeWe also had appreciable influence this year outside the usual spheres of Microsoft and the academic world. Simon Peyton-Jones, worked with Computing at Schools on the creation of a national computing syllabus and a highly influential report on reform in computing education. I was appointed to the EPSRC, to help set policy for almost £3 billion of funding for university research. We brokered, on behalf of Microsoft, a partnership with the IUCN Red List and deployed software to enable better tracking of endangered species. Lastly, Stephen Emmott, starring in Ten Billion, left sellout audiences impressed (and worried) after about the future of our planet.

Into the new year, we look forward enormously to moving into a lab in the new business district of central Cambridge. We will be more visible as a Cambridge institution, a shop window into the world of computing research. Incidentally, there’s a choice of more than 50 pubs located within a mile—so it should be a good year for collaboration.

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