Today, we’re hosting the Microsoft Research Silicon Valley TechFair. It’s a showcase for research projects from our Silicon Valley lab, as well as selected projects from Microsoft Research facilities in Redmond, Wash., and Beijing.

Silicon Valley is perhaps the most widely recognized center of technical innovation in the world, and we’re delighted to show the local community some of the projects we find most exciting.

One area of substantial investment at Microsoft Research Silicon Valley is data-intensive computing. We’ve built a platform called Dryad/DryadLINQ for distributing and managing code and data in a cloud-based data center. Using this platform, application programmers can mine large data sets for unpredictable patterns without having to worry about issues such as communication between components and failure recovery. With only a few dozen lines of code, an application can harness hundreds or thousands of computers in the cloud to analyze petabytes of data. We think Dryad/DryadLINQ delivers a general framework for analyzing large data sets, which is absolutely essential for a wide spectrum of modern commercial and scientific applications such as mining of web services logs to identify botnets, and analysis of traffic patterns in large road networks.

With the ability to process such vast amounts of data comes the obligation to protect individual privacy, which is why another of our focus areas is data security and privacy. Practically every day, we read about breaches that expose data improperly, so finding ways to guarantee privacy and having a precise definition for what that means are important areas of investigation. During the TechFair, we’re demonstrating three research efforts that ensure, in various settings, that individual privacy requirements are respected by real-world computing systems.

Complementing these deep areas of investment we will show a breadth of research in other areas, including multi-image fusion to create panoramas or that perfect holiday family photo, a translating telephone that performs real-time translation in both directions for two people speaking over a telephone, and a stereo display that doesn’t make your eyes hurt because it creates the kind of focal cues your brain is wired to expect and understand. All these research projects have the ability to make big differences in the way ordinary users use and live with computing.

Often, people think of research as work that is always about the future—and that the future never arrives. Microsoft wouldn’t have research labs if they didn’t make a difference in our products. Several TechFair demos feature technologies now incorporated into the Bing search engine. These go far beyond traditional keyword search to encompass images, real-time content, and interaction, to enable users to get the content they want. A large part of the Bing product team is based in Silicon Valley, and we strive both here and elsewhere to enhance Bing with research innovations.

I find this breadth and depth of work tremendously exciting. It validates the deliberately loose structure of Microsoft Research Silicon Valley, which encourages researchers to create through collaboration. Many of these projects span standard technical-area boundaries, such as programming languages and distributed systems, and thus might not arise if researchers with those realms of expertise were organized into formal groups around their areas. We have no formal group structure at Microsoft Research Silicon Valley, so researchers find it easy to collaborate with anyone who has a good idea and brings useful expertise to a project. That freedom can extend to collaboration outside our lab and outside Microsoft entirely, often involving researchers at Bay Area universities and even further afield. Removing boundaries enables creativity. Ample evidence of that will be on display during the Silicon Valley TechFair. If you are unable to visit the TechFair in person, you can learn more about the research on display at www.research.microsoft.com.

Posted by Roy Levin
Distinguished Engineer & Managing Director, Microsoft Research Silicon Valley