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Microsoft Research fights critics, targets innovation

By , Network World
December 06, 2006 01:08 PM ET

Network World - When the word “innovation” is tossed about many may look down their nose at the company sitting on top of the high-tech industry – Microsoft.

The look is not without prompting given critics’ charges that the software giant has chased innovation born from competitors such as Apple and Google. And who can forget Bill Gates’s Internet Tidal Wave memo in 1995 that ushered Microsoft into an online world already in full bloom.

But it’s not all tales of late to the party.

In fact, Microsoft planted the seeds of innovation 15 years ago when it established what has become one of its most distinguishing features, Microsoft Research (MSR). The lab has spawned innovations seen today in products from Windows Vista to Exchange Server to Xbox 360.

A nod to the future
Microsoft Research, which turned 15 in September, has 700 researchers around the globe working on countless projects. Here is a look at a handful of technologies that could find their way into MicrosoftÕs product portfolio.

Project Description Lab group
Bayesphone Uses streaming intelligence to see if a user can take a call by fusing together such information as GPS data, ambient sounds to detect whether the user is having a conversation, and information about the user's current situation, such as the title and location of the user's meetings and their attendees. Adaptive Systems and Interaction Group
Eclipse Improves the reliability of distributed systems by adding self-awareness, self-restoration, and "graceful degradation" to today's fault-tolerant systems. Distributed Systems Group
Photo Tourism Collaboration between Microsoft researcher Rick Szeliski and University of Washington researchers that pieces together three-dimensional models using pictures, video and audio. A preview of the technology, called Photosynth, can be found HERE. Interactive Visual Media Group
Vigilante Technology to contain worms automatically using collaborative detection at end hosts, which run software to detect worms and broadcast self-certifying alerts. The alerts trigger host to generate filters that block infection. Security and Privacy Group
Wild Thing Encourages use of wild cards (*) anywhere in the input text so that a language model can find the best expansion and speed data entry, both on mobile devices and the desktop. Text Mining, Search, and Navigation Group
Click to see:

MSR has grown from an idea to more than 700 researchers working out of five labs around the globe with a budget of more than $250 million. MSR incubates not only futuristic ideas but young minds, having hired 700 interns worldwide this year including 250 computer science PhD candidates in Redmond alone, which is roughly 21% of all the computer science PhD candidates in the United States. It’s a program Microsoft officials say is the world’s largest PhD. internship program for computer science.

The MSR staff, however, is not just computer scientists, it includes psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists and medical doctors who are tasked with pushing the envelope on state of the art technology as much or more than transferring their technology into new and existing Microsoft products.

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