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Windows on Theory
Posted by Rob Knies
If you are feeling hungry, you go to the kitchen. If you’d like to take a swim, you head to a swimming pool. If you want to catch a movie, you’re bound for a theater.And, Danyel Fisher says, if you’re interested in data, you open Excel.“Excel is where data lives,” says Fisher, a researcher with the Visualization and Interaction for Business and Entertainment (VIBE) team at Microsoft Research Redmond. “When people have data to organize, in any form, it usually passes through Excel at some point—sometimes, just as a quick way to look at it, and sometimes, with tools like Flash Fill and charting and sorting—that’s where it stays.“Data visualizations are incredibly powerful and fun ways for users to understand their data.”
Boaz Barak specializes in theoretical computer science. He has a Ph.D. from the Weizmann Institute of Science, has been a member in the School of Mathematics at the Institute for Advanced Study, based in Princeton, N.J., and then moved across town to serve as an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science at Princeton University.Now, as a senior researcher at Microsoft Research New England, he is helping to verify the presence of nuclear warheads.That might seem an unlikely turn of events, but it just goes to show the unusual opportunities Microsoft Research scientists get to improve our world for the better.
Steve Hodges and his colleagues in the Sensors and Devices group at Microsoft Research Cambridge spend their time pursuing novel sensing technologies and new devices that make it easier for people to interact with computer systems and digital content.
The team’s successes have been many, and among the most notable have been SenseCam—a wearable camera that takes photos automatically, thereby enabling users to review a series of snapshots and recall events as they transpired—and .NET Gadgeteer, a rapid prototyping platform for small electronic gadgets and embedded hardware devices.
Now, these creative researchers have unveiled their latest concept via a note titled An Interactive Belt-worn Badge with a Retractable String-based Input Mechanism during the Association for Computing Machinery’s 2013 SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, being held in Paris through May 2.
Many people talk to their plants. But what if those plants were able to talk back?That’s the premise behind Botanicalls, a project to enable communications between plants and people. A sensor network provides the flora the ability to call and text people to request assistance, such as “I need water,” or “Not sure if it was you, but someone gave me a drink—I feel great!”It’s a fascinating, precocious venture, one featured on the TODAY show on May 7 as part of a discussion about home technologies. It’s also a window into the work of Kati London, one of the driving forces behind Botanicalls and the newest member of FUSE Labs at Microsoft Research.
It’s not often that people get a chance to peek into the future, but that will be the case May 21 in Washington, D.C., when Microsoft Research hosts its biennial D.C. TechFair.During an afternoon open house held at the Microsoft Innovation & Policy Center in downtown Washington, D.C., customers, academia, and governmental officials will get an opportunity to explore the trends and technologies Microsoft Research expects to change the face of computing.World-class scientists from Microsoft Research will demonstrate how new discoveries in computer science and information technology are not only enhancing Microsoft products but also helping to overcome some of society’s biggest challenges.