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Windows on Theory
Posted by Rob Knies
Moshe Tennenholtz is an accomplished man. An Israel-based principal researcher with Microsoft Research New England, he has performed pioneering work bridging computer science, artificial intelligence, and game theory. He also has co-founded several e-commerce companies. Given such a varied, successful background, there’s little these days that can faze him.Yet when he learned he had been named winner of the 2012 Allen Newell Award from the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, he couldn’t have been more surprised.“It was announced to me by phone by the chair of the committee [Eric Grimson, chancellor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology],” Tennenholtz says. “I didn’t even know what he wanted to talk to me about.”
We live in a society obsessed with speed. Whether it’s download times on a mobile phone or Usain Bolt’s time in the 100 meters, the faster the better. We also live during an era when accuracy has become not just preferable but essential. The technological marvels of the 21st century demand it.Speed=good. Accuracy=good. Put them together, and you’ve got a leap forward, such as recent advancements in Bing Voice Search for Windows Phone that enable customers to get faster, more accurate results than ever before.Those improvements come, in part, from contributions delivered via Microsoft Research’s work on deep neural networks (DNNs). Such networks are a computational framework for automatic pattern recognition that is inspired by the basic circuits of the human brain. Refinements in mathematical formulas, coupled with greater computational power and large data sets, enable DNNs to learn and edge noticeably closer than traditional speech technologies to humans’ ability to recognize speech and images.
You might not be aware of the term “continuous mobile vision,” but I’ll bet there’s a good chance you are aware of one of the scenarios it could enable.Remember the concept, bandied about in recent years, of technology that can remind you of a person’s name once her or his face has been detected? Yeah, that one. I’m sure that most of us could make use of it once in a while.The problem, though, is that image sensing takes lots of energy. That’s because modern image sensors lack energy proportionality. They’re power-hungry. That’s fine when a high-resolution, high-frame-rate image is desired. But even when you’re not seeking images of that quality, today’s image sensors still consume a lot of power.Someday soon, though, things could change for the better. That’s the premise behind the paper Energy Characterization and Optimization of Image Sensing Toward Continuous Mobile Vision, which has been accepted for presentation during MobiSys 2013, the 11th International Conference on Mobile Systems, Applications and Services, being held June 25-28 in Taipei, Taiwan.
The changes wrought by technology in recent years is nothing short of astounding. First, music became digitized. Now, it’s video, in all its forms. That data can be stored, comfortably and effectively, in the cloud. And many of us walk around each day with little computers in our pockets.On these miniature marvels—known commonly, if not completely accurately, as “mobile phones”—we can achieve something humans have dreamed of for decades: the ability to call a loved one and actually see that person as we chat.That’s fantastic, right? Well, as the saying goes, you ain’t seen nothing yet.On June 8, during the Science EXPO Day being held at Seattle Center as part of the Seattle Science Festival, Microsoft Research will be showing a half-dozen technology demonstrations designed to fire the imaginations of youths attending the event. And among them will be one that not only lets you see somebody as you hold a conversation, but also experience their presence in 3-D—while you talk.
Let’s say you’re traveling abroad this summer, planning a trip to Germany perhaps. You’ve got a lot on your itinerary: visits to Munich and Berlin, a cruise down the Rhine, a few tastings of Mosel grapes. It’s all extremely exciting. There’s just one problem.You don’t speak German.That’s OK. Foreign travelers have been braving the translation gap for centuries. But it’s just OK. Negotiating an environment featuring an unfamiliar language is difficult, and for many, a language-related faux pas seems inevitable.Fear no more. Now, with the Bing Translator app for Windows, which became available June 6 in all markets that offer Windows 8, you can translate anywhere within the operating system and start deciphering all those street signs and restaurant menus you’ve been dreading.