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Posted by Rob Knies
John Cleese, the acclaimed Monty Python actor, spent time as an A.D. White Professor-at-Large. So did renowned primatologist Jane Goodall. And Oliver Sacks, noted author and neurologist. And epic novelist Toni Morrison. And short-story writer Eudora Welty.Add to that esteemed list the name of Duncan Watts, principal researcher at Microsoft Research New York City. On May 6, Watts’ name joined the roster of honorees for that Cornell University program, established in 1965 in conjunction with the university’s centenary and named for the school’s co-founder and first president, Andrew Dickson White.“The A.D. White program brings some of the world’s most distinguished scholars, thinkers, and artists to Cornell as ‘professors-at-large,’” said Steven H Strogatz, Jac
Do you speak Klingon? If not, that could all be about to change—thanks to Bing Translator’s just-released Klingon machine-translation system, developed in part by Microsoft Research.For more details, see the post over at the Bing Translator Team Blog.The language, familiar worldwide to numerous fans of the iconic science-fiction TV series Star Trek, has been added to the robust offerings already available on Bing Translator, just in time for the May 16 premiere of the new film Star Trek into Darkness.
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.
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.
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.