Annual TechFest innovation fair showcases technological advances to help search online or across distant galaxies and to improve the planet we live on.
Whether people are searching online for a vacation hot spot, scanning the galaxy for distant planets or seeking ways to improve the environment on planet Earth, innovations from Microsoft Research could help deliver better results and entirely new experiences. TechFest 2008, an annual event that brings researchers from around the world together with people from across the company, is showcasing some of these innovations at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond.
Speaking at TechFest before an audience of customers, academics, dignitaries and media representatives, Rick Rashid, senior vice president of Microsoft Research, said, “Computing impacts every facet of our lives, from the way we work to the way we learn and live. Our job in research is to continuously advance technology to make our lives better in tangible ways.”
With almost 40 exciting new technologies on display to the public at TechFest, and dozens more accessible only to Microsoft employees, Rashid highlighted numerous projects that show how computing enables new experiences, and how the basic tools of computer science are evolving to help all the sciences advance more rapidly.
Rashid was joined onstage by Craig Mundie, chief research and strategy officer at Microsoft, and Alan Alda, host of “Scientific American Frontiers.” Mundie said, “By investing in long-term research, we can transform software and computing technologies, helping to inspire innovations that will have a lasting and positive impact on the world’s most pressing issues, from education and healthcare to energy and the environment.”
Exploring the Universe: WorldWide Telescope
WorldWide Telescope is a rich visualization environment that functions as a virtual telescope, combining imagery from the most advanced ground- and space-based telescopes in the world to enable seamless, guided explorations of the universe.
“WorldWide Telescope is like having an observatory on your desktop,” said Rashid. “It enables you to see the sky in a completely new way.”
Rashid announced that WorldWide Telescope will run on the Visual Experience Engine, a Microsoft Research technology that enables seamless panning and zooming across the night sky, blending terabytes of images, data and narratives from multiple sources over the Internet into a rich, immersive experience. The Visual Experience Engine can also be applied to other scenarios, such as tours of parks, national monuments or vacation destinations.
Mundie and Alda observed that the WorldWide Telescope could lead to new discoveries and inspire a new generation of young people to consider focusing on math and science.
Evolving Search: User Interfaces for Collaboration and Persistence
Today, Web browsers and search engines are typically designed to support an individual person, working alone, at a single point in time. Microsoft Research showed three new user interfaces that support richer types of search experiences:
- CoSearch enables groups of people who are sharing a single computer to collaborate on a single Web search by using multiple mice or even mobile phones.
- SearchBar assists people in resuming searches that are interrupted.
- SearchTogether helps groups of people collaborate on Web searches by showing the group’s query history.
Rethinking Dependable System Design: Singularity
Rashid announced that Singularity, a prototype operating system for the computer science research environment, will be available starting today at no charge for academic and noncommercial use. The goal of Singularity is to help improve software dependability and foster inventive research in systems, programming languages and tools.
“Singularity is not the next Windows,” Rashid said. “Think of it like a concept car. It is a prototype operating system designed from the ground up to test-drive a new paradigm for how operating systems and applications interact with one another. We are making it available to the community in the hope that it will enable researchers to try out new ideas quickly.”
Singularity can be downloaded from CodePlex, an online portal created in 2006 to foster collaborative software development projects and host shared source code.
Rashid also showed a project called BEE3, a hardware platform that lets researchers experiment with different computer architectures without using costly custom chips. He also highlighted multiple projects aimed at advancing the understanding of natural ecosystems.
Following Rashid’s presentation, Mundie and Alda, who share a conviction that technology can help transform society, discussed other technologies that hold the promise to advance society, including sensor networks and software technologies that could reduce energy consumption in homes and enterprises, provide valuable data for preserving the environment, and lead to better healthcare for people everywhere.
About Microsoft Research
Founded in 1991, Microsoft Research is dedicated to conducting both basic and applied research in computer science and software engineering. Its goals are to enhance the user experience on computing devices, reduce the cost of writing and maintaining software, and invent novel computing technologies. Researchers focus on more than 55 areas of computing and collaborate with leading academic, government and industry researchers to advance the state of the art in such areas as graphics, speech recognition, user-interface research, natural language processing, programming tools and methodologies, operating systems and networking, and the mathematical sciences. Microsoft Research currently employs more than 800 people in six labs located in Redmond, Wash.; Cambridge, Mass.; Silicon Valley, Calif.; Cambridge, England; Beijing, China; and Bangalore, India. Microsoft Research collaborates openly with colleges and universities worldwide to enhance the teaching and learning experience, inspire technological innovation, and broadly advance the field of computer science. More information can be found at http://www.research.microsoft.com.