More news has leaked from Microsoft’s Research Summit.
In its latest move, the scientist there has vowed to make the digital assistant more useful to people like themselves.
Microsoft is bringing Academic Search to Bing (already a useful feature on Google called Google Scholar) and are integrating it with Cortana.
Unlike Google Scholar however Microsoft says their Academic Search results will become a first-class citizen in Bing search results rather than a separate portal.
“Microsoft Academic Search is evolving from a research project to a production effort that will leverage the full capability of Microsoft’s flagship search engine, Bing,” says Kuansan Wang, director of the Internet Services Research Center. “Since the academic audience is an important user segment and a source of innovative suggestions and feedback, we are announcing the new development during the Faculty Summit to broaden our engagements with this community.”
Cortana will add an “Academic theme” in its Notebook which, when activated, will use Bing to discover and alert users about academic events such as conference agendas and paper due dates, tailored to a user’s interests.
“By growing Microsoft Academic Search from a research effort to production,” says Kuansan Wang, director of the Internet Services Research Center, “our goal is to make Bing-powered Cortana the best personal research assistant for our users while augmenting the previous site as Microsoft Research’s social and outreach portal for the research community.”
Read more about the effort at Technet.com here.
At Microsoft Research 2014 Faculty Summit Microsoft showed off a new technology they are working on called “Project Adam”.
Project Adam is a neural net running in Azure which Microsoft claims outperforms Google’s own best of class Google Brain, being used for voice recognition and route guidance, amongst other things, by Google.
At present Microsoft’s system,which is more optimized and actually gets smarter the more servers are added, is only being used to recognize dogs and poisonous bugs, but Microsoft says the system is embryonic, and can eventually do a lot more.
See a video describing the system after the break.
Our readers can lower their pitchforks, as Microsoft Research has not in fact forgotten Windows Phone.
After causing a brouhaha by releasing the app for Android first (and apparently only) the company has now also dropped the app in the Windows Phone Store.
The Climatology app gives you climate information for anywhere on Earth: temperature, rain and sunniness. Whether finding where are the warm, dry places to go on holiday in December, or avoiding rain for your wedding, to finding out what the climate is like in Kazakhstan in April, Climatology allows you to discover the information you want.
The useful app is a free download here.
I suspect the real message is not that Microsoft is forgetting their own platform, but even more under their new chief, they are even less inclined to play favourites with their own OS, which of course comes across as rather insensitive to their loyal supporters. Of course with an attitude like that they better work pretty hard at making Windows Phone compelling, else even their loyal supporters will stop favouring Microsoft products also.
Thanks Loïc for the tip.
Speaking at the MIT Tech Review summit, Ranveer Chandra from Microsoft Research explained how they hoped to create a smartphone with 7 day battery life without carrying a wheelbarrow of batteries around.
Their approach is a combination of new battery technology and software optimization.
The new battery would feature two smaller lithium-ion batteries instead of one large one. One would be optimized to efficiently provide a large supply of current, for example when a person is playing games on a phone. The other would be designed to trickle out smaller currents, such as when a phone is idle.
Microsoft Research has released a new app in the Life Recorder genre.
Time of my Life will keep track of where you spend your time, automatically inferring places such as work, home, gym and restaurant.
The app will them be able to present useful graphs about the Times of your Life, helping you track and budget time better.
The free app, which of course includes location tracking, can be found in the Windows Phone Store here.
Today Microsoft Research reported on some work they are doing with Stanford School of Medicine to recognize and appropriately respond to queries such as “How do I perform CPR?”
The search engine would recognize when such queries are urgent rather than relaxed searches for information, and offer immediate and practical advice.
An example of such a scenario would be if some-one used their phone to search how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
The phone would then suggest calling 911 immediately and then offer further step-by-step instructions. While the ambulance is on its way, the phone would advise on the location of an automated external defibrillator nearby and suggests that someone be asked to retrieve it. The phone would then suggest being placed directly on the chest of the victim and offer instructions on how to perform chest compressions. The accelerometer in the device would explain the correct depth of compression and how quickly they must be performed while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.
Microsoft Research has demonstrated a technique to turn your smartphone into a high quality 3D scanner using a simple to use app and cloud processing.
The challenge was to make sure the users follow a prescribed pathway in moving their phones, and the team achieved this by visualizing a 3D sphere around the object (in this case a head) and providing visual feedback for the scanning user to follow.
Microsoft notes the technolgy can be used to generate 3D models to support scenarios like AR furniture & space arrangement, e-commerce visualization, object recognition & search, etc. and then use these models in 3D printing.
See the video demo after the break.
The Times of India reports that just like Nokia, Microsoft is also working on ‘no-touch’ technology for phones, tablets and TVs.
Rico Malvar, Microsoft’s chief scientist, said Microsoft is building an electronic bracelet that can detect movements in a person’s fingers, allowing them to imitate the actions of poking and flicking the screen to operate a device.
Users will be able to control a mobile phone with gestures even when it is in in their pocket, or a TV when their back is turned.
One can image the technology being integrated into a future Microsoft smartwatch.
Microsoft has also unveiled new ‘interactive displays’ which gives the illusion of a globe spinning or a dragon flying inches above a flat monitor. Cameras and motion sensors allow people to interact with these floating objects.
Another prototype allows someone sitting in front of a large screen to see a series of cubes. They can then slip their hands behind the device in order to ‘touch’ these objects.
Tim Large, a researcher from Microsoft Applied Sciences Group, said that final versions of these displays will be ready in two to five years.
In the above video, speaking to the BBC, Microsoft Research Managing Director Eric Horvitz explains some of the challenges artificial intelligence researchers face in creating useful personal assistants.
"The ability of a system to understand more broadly what the overall context of a communication is turns out to be very important," he told the BBC.
His choice of words is interesting, as Windows Phone has long been expected to feature a Context Engine, a word which has also popped up recently in connection with the FourSquare investment, which is meant to provide data to Microsoft’s rumoured Cortana personal assistant.
"There are some critical signals in context. These include location, time of day, day of week, user patterns of behaviour, current modality – are you driving, are you walking, are you sitting, are you in your office. Are you in a place you are familiar with versus one you are not?
"A person’s calendar can be a very rich source of context, as is their email."
We know wearables are going to be the next big thing, but Microsoft Research has taken it to an entirely new direction.
Neowin reports that they have created a new bra laden with sensors which read things such as your heart rhythm, skin conductance, and even movement via a 3 axis accelerometer and two axis gyroscope.
The data is then used to build up a picture of a users emotional state, after they spend some time calibrating it.
Data is transmitted via Bluetooth to a user’s smartphone, and from there to the cloud.
TechnologyReview spoke to Microsoft’s new head of research, Peter Lee, asking how they will help elevate Windows Phone to above its current niche status.
Lee was previously head of the computer science department at Carnegie Mellon University and currently managed more than 1,100 Microsoft researchers across 13 facilities.
He said Microsoft was committed to using the best best concepts in hardware, devices, and sensors in Windows Phones, and they wanted to give the user a more natural interaction, with a phone that is aware of what the user is doing. They were currently looking at new classes of sensors and even wearable computing.
“We have committed to bringing highly personalized machine learning technology into the phone,” he said.
Lee said Machine Learning was Microsoft Research’s number one investment.
Microsoft has posted a minor updated their BLINK photo app, which takes a series of photos in quick succession and allows users to choose the best picture to save, to also publish the pictures as a brief animation.
Version 2.1 of the app features:
- Camera settings – change camera settings such as scene mode, exposure, white balance and ISO in capture mode
- Animation – Quickly set the motion range for animation in addition to selecting the best shot after capture
- Sharing – Share the animations to BLINK.so.cl, Facebook, or Twitter
- In-app viewing – View the animations in the in-app history, wait for a moment and they start animating!
- Web gallery – From the in-app history, view your shared BLINKs in the web gallery
- Save another – Your BLINKs are always saved within the app. Come back and save another shot to camera roll or change the animation range via "edit" in the in-app history
Sharing to www.so.cl/blink now works, and some pretty good examples of the craft can be seen there.
The app is free and can be found in the Windows Phone Store here.
See an example of a Blink after the break.
Microsoft Research has released another Windows Phone app, this time to check the speed of your cellular and WIFI network.
The app measures both upload and download speeds and keeps a history of previous tests. Microsoft is also using the app to collect anonymous data about network quality and availability at the same time, which may include location data if you agree.
The free app is Windows Phone 8-only and can be found in the Windows Phone Store here.