• Infer.NET: Machine Learning Tailor-Made

    Posted by Rob Knies

    Microsoft Research Machine Learning Summit logo

    One of the featured technologies on display on April 23, the first day of Microsoft Research Machine Learning Summit 2013, was Infer.NET, a powerful, compelling .NET library from Microsoft Research Cambridge.

    Infer.NET is an example of model-based machine learning, as explained by Tom Minka from the Cambridge lab during a morning talk.

    “It’s about trying to get more people to try machine learning,” said Minka, a senior researcher. “The traditional approach to this is that experts build prepackaged learners that are very generic and apply in a robust way to different data sets. But the problem with that approach is that it doesn’t account for domain knowledge. In lots of areas where we want to use machine learning, such as vision or speech or ecology, there is very strong domain knowledge.

  • Machine Learning Achieves Humanitarian Ends

    Posted by Rob Knies

    Infer.NET logo

    In February 2012, in response to an initiative from the administration of U.S. President Obama to harness technology and innovation to encourage development for longtime scientific challenges such as health, food security, and climate change, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office launched Patents for Humanity, a program to recognize those who use patented technology to aid the less fortunate.

    The inaugural winners are in, and prominent among them is Infer.NET, a Microsoft Research Cambridge library for machine learning, which won one of the contest’s four categories, information technology.

    The awards were presented April 11 in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Teresa Stanek Rea, acting undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and acting director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, made the presentations, and U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who introduced last year’s Patents for Humanity Program Improvement Act, spoke during the event. Fred Humphries, Microsoft vice president for U.S. Government Affairs, accepted the award.

    John Winn, along with Tom Minka one of the inventors of Infer.NET, didn’t exactly see such an honor coming.

  • MACE: Taking Control of Network Access

    Posted by Rob Knies

    MACE logo

    Any businessperson in a large organization can testify about the challenges growth can bring. As a business gets larger, for example, the number of employees increases. Further growth might mean multiple offices—some, perhaps, located in distant lands.

    Ideally, you want your employees all tied into the same network, accessing the appropriate resources and communicating effectively. That can grow difficult, though, once the employee count begins to rise and spills into multiple locations. Managing access to network resources is important—and it isn’t easy.

    That’s where Management of Access Control in the Enterprise (MACE) comes in. This tool, available for download, enables administrators to collect data from one or more servers and visualize that information to understand who has access to what—which user or security group has read/write access to which resources, be it folders, shares, or File Classification Infrastructure (FCI) files.

  • Helping the Low-Literate Learn to Navigate Through User Interfaces

    Posted by Rob Knies

    CHI 2013

    For several years, researchers from Microsoft Research India’s Technology for Emerging Markets (TEM) group have been studying how to design applications for economically poor communities such as those found in India.

    In particular, Indrani Medhi, a researcher at the India lab, has been focusing on user interfaces for low-literate and novice technology users. Medhi, who is completing her Ph.D. at the Industrial Design Centre at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, has co-written a paper accepted for the Association for Computing Machinery’s 2013 SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI). The paper is titled Some Evidence for the Impact of Limited Education on Hierarchical User Interface Navigation and was written with Meera Lakshmanan, a translator and research assistant; Kentaro Toyama, a former head of TEM and now a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley and a fellow of the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Edward Cutrell, Toyama’s successor as senior research manager of TEM.

    The paper examines one factor in application design for poor communities: the fact that users with little or no education have a diminished capacity to navigate a hierarchical user interface. Medhi’s work has explored ways that UIs can be designed for low-literate people by using text-free iconography that such users can recognize, but the challenge continues.

  • The Bright Future of Machine Learning

    Posted by Rob Knies

    Machine Learning Summit logo

    Unlocking the future—that was the theme Rick Rashid, Microsoft chief research officer, used to close his opening remarks April 23 during the first day of the Microsoft Research Machine Learning Summit 2013.

    The event, held at Microsoft’s Le Campus site in Issy-les-Moulineaux, France, just outside of Paris, gathered thought leaders and researchers from a broad range of computing-related disciplines to focus on key challenges in a new era of machine learning and to identify what will be necessary to take advantage of the information resources of today and tomorrow to enhance society at large.

    Co-chair Evelyne Viegas of Microsoft Research Connections opened the summit with a few introductory remarks before introducing Alain Crozier, president of Microsoft France, who welcomed the approximately 250 attendees to the event. Viegas then took the opportunity to bring Rashid to the stage for his introductory remarks.