• Stopping Bugs Before They Sneak into Software

    Posted by Rob Knies

    Code analysis

    Software development is not for the faint-hearted. Programmers often work long hours, typing code while staring at computer monitors. Computer software can include millions of lines of code, so given the nature and the volume of the work involved, mistakes are unavoidable.

    Those mistakes—known in tech circles as “bugs”—can cause serious consequences for customers. Eliminating coding bugs is well-nigh impossible, but for software companies, reducing their numbers by any reasonable means is a high priority.

    Now, Microsoft researcher Andrew Begel and a few academic and industrial colleagues are trying a novel approach to reduce coding errors: tracking the eye movements and other mental and physical characteristics of developers as they work.

  • Making Cortana the Researcher’s Dream Assistant

    Posted by Rob Knies

    Microsoft Academic Search on Cortana

    Cortana, the personal assistant for Windows Phone 8.1, certainly has received plenty of attention since being announced in April. Her ability to make your day-to-day life easier by managing your information and keeping you up to date has made her one of the most discussed technological developments of the year.

    Now, Cortana is about to get smarter—way smarter.

    This fall, she will be able to point the way to a wealth of information from the academic community. Cortana is powered by Bing, and soon, that search engine will have academic data tightly integrated and prominently featured on its search pages.

    The new functionality, announced July 14 during the 15th annual Microsoft Research Faculty Summit, represents the latest step for Microsoft Academic Search, which has been a test bed for research ideas for fields such as data mining, named-entity disambiguation, and visualization. This research project has served as a means to explore the challenges in searching for scholarly works, such as achieving author disambiguation, determining publication influence, and constructing graphs of related authors.

  • Moving Food-Resilience Data to the Cloud

    Posted by Rob Knies

    Photographic analysis of agricultural field

    People need food, regularly and often. That’s such an obvious truth that’s it’s easy to lose sight of it—easy, that is, until calamity strikes and the food supply is endangered, as it could be in the wake of ongoing changes to Earth’s climate. That prospect is far from inviting.

    This is why Microsoft supports the White House’s inclusion of Food Resilience as one of the themes of its Climate Data Initiative (CDI), an effort to open, organize, and centralize climate-relevant data on Data.gov’s Climate website. And that’s why teams from across Microsoft—including the company’s research unit—are playing an intrinsic role in supporting the initiative.

    The CDI was announced on June 25, 2013, by U.S. President Barack Obama. Little more than a year later, progress is under way. Work on the Coastal Flooding Risks to Communities theme began in March, and in Washington, D.C., on July 29, the White House announced public and private partnerships and commitments in further support of CDI.

  • Conjecture Proof Leads to Pólya Prize

    Posted by Rob Knies

    Nikhil Srivastava, Adam W. Marcus, and Daniel A. Spielman

    It was almost a year ago, in this space, that you might have learned the astounding news that a team of two researchers from Yale University and one from Microsoft Research had announced a proof of a riddle that had eluded mathematicians for more than half a century.

    The Kadison-Singer conjecture, first proposed by Richard Kadison and Isadore Singer in 1959, pertains to the mathematical foundations of quantum mechanics. At the time, experts suggested that the implications could be significant. That, says Nikhil Srivastava of Microsoft Research India, is starting to come true.

    Now, during the 2014 annual meeting of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), being held in Chicago from July 7 to 11, the breakthrough is earning a more immediate reward. The 2014 George Pólya Prize will be presented to Srivastava and colleagues Adam W. Marcus and Daniel A. Spielman by Irene Fonseca, professor of mathematics at Carnegie Mellon University and current SIAM president.

  • Sports Fans Enjoy Power of Leibniz Entity Recognition

    Posted by Rob Knies

    St. Louis Cardinals content on the Bing Sports app

    With the World Cup final between Germany and Argentina set for July 13 at Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, the powerful appeal of sporting events to a global audience becomes apparent once again. What began with a 3-1 victory for host Brazil over Croatia nearly a month ago has reached the point of soccer-fueled hysteria.

    Simply stated, people love their sports.

    Give the people what they want—that’s the goal of the team of Microsoft researchers and developers that have put together the Leibniz contributions to the Bing Sports app, which debuted on the Windows 8.1 desktop on Feb. 23 with Associated Press feeds about the National Basketball Association. Article-reader impressions in the app spiked immediately.