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Microsoft Showcases Number Of Innovations Under Development

Staff Writer
Published: 2004-09-22

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At the Microsoft Research and Innovation Fair, Microsoft showcased a number of innovations under development by scientists in the company's global research labs and with partners throughout Europe.

Highlighting new projects such as a graphical programming language for robotics that is simple to teach and allows people to control robots with a Smartphone, and mobile hot spot technology that helps provide better high-speed connectivity anytime, anywhere, by dynamically combining the power from multiple wireless devices, the fair showed how collaborative innovation can fuel global economic growth and advance the state of the art in fields as diverse as mobility, security, human-computer interaction and next-generation media.

Speaking to an audience of academics and government officials at the Bibliotheque Solvay, Jean-Philippe Courtois, senior vice president and chief executive officer of Microsoft Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), reiterated Microsoft's commitment to creating and sustaining a vibrant information technology (IT) ecosystem, and to further supporting the goals of the European Union's Lisbon Agenda to make Europe the most competitive knowledge-based economy by 2010.

"Information and communications technology (ICT) has had a more transformative impact on societies throughout Europe and around the globe than nearly any other advance in human history. ICT innovations have brought fundamental and lasting benefits to everything from science, healthcare and education to business productivity, government and beyond," Courtois said. "As the research demonstrated today shows, we are an innovation company committed to a strong research program in Europe. Our goal is to work as a dedicated partner, to push the limits of ICT, to continue forward progress, and to meet the goals of the Lisbon Agenda and unleash the potential of the information society."

Also at the event, Rick Rashid, senior vice president of Microsoft Research, and Andrew Herbert, managing director of Microsoft Research Cambridge, highlighted the External Research Office, which is chartered with bringing together Europe's top researchers to create the new building blocks for the next wave of innovation at the boundaries of computing and sciences. The office is focused on Europe-wide collaborative research in three areas: new computing paradigms, computational science and social-centric applications. Alongside these research investments, the External Research Office is developing an intellectual capital development program to support the training, development and recognition of Europe's scientists of tomorrow. The External Research Office will build upon Microsoft's history of supporting academic research through research grants and training of more than 2,000 students and scientists at more than 100 European universities since the foundation of Microsoft Research Cambridge in 1997.

"Innovation at Microsoft is a global effort, bringing together the brightest minds from around the world and putting them to work to build the technology of the future -- whether it's next year or 10 years from now," Rashid said. "Our work with academic and corporate partners in Europe has already led to some incredible breakthroughs, and the work we're highlighting here today is only a glimpse of what we'll be able to deliver together in the coming years."

Advancing the State of the Art

At the fair, researchers from the Berlin University of Technology and Microsoft Research Cambridge demonstrated the Visual Robot Development Kit (VRDK), a graphical programming language that makes the development of robotic applications easy enough to teach in school. Featuring a simple graphical editor that can be used with a mouse and keyboard or Tablet PC, the VRDK helps inspire future engineers by enabling them to easily program "toy" robots to perform simple tasks and control them using a PC or Windows Mobile-based Smartphone.

Cambridge researchers also demonstrated mobile hot spot technology that enables better Internet connectivity by combining multiple wireless technologies. Laptop PCs, mobile phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs) often support a number of wireless standards such as Wi-Fi and GPRS, but the bandwidth of individual devices is often insufficient to provide quality high-speed access. Researchers showed how an ad hoc combination of the resources of multiple devices (such as a conference room full of mobile phones) can provide better access to data in remote locations.

Other innovations showcased at the event included the following:

-- i2i is a computer-vision-based system that uses smart framing, 3-D animated emoticons and background processing to enhance remote communication such as a webcam-based live chat.

-- ZCast is a wireless data broadcast system that delivers high-quality, interactive audio and video to PCs and mobile devices.

-- Advanced network technologies can automatically diagnose problems, graphically communicate status and help improve connectivity for home and small-office users as well as large enterprises.

-- A tamper-resistant biometric identification card system can provide a cryptographically secure ID card that can be easily deployed at low cost.

Investing in Innovation

Microsoft dedicates a significant portion of its revenue to research and development; it invested $6.1 billion (U.S.) this fiscal year in fundamental research, incubation, technology transfer and product development. The Microsoft Research Cambridge laboratory, co-located on the University of Cambridge campus, employs more than 80 researchers focusing on programming languages, security, information retrieval, machine learning, computer vision, operating systems and networking. Established in 1997, the Microsoft Research Cambridge lab has already made significant contributions to a wide range of products such as the Tablet PC and the Xbox game system.

At the European Microsoft Innovation Center in Aachen, Germany, Microsoft scientists and engineers are collaborating with industry and academic partners on applied research projects in areas as diverse as Web services, security and privacy, embedded and wireless technologies, and grid computing.

Microsoft's product development center in Vedbaek, Denmark, is the company's only facility of its kind outside the United States, focused on developing the next generation of software for small and medium-sized businesses, working with independent software vendors, and conducting development for Visual Studio and other development tools.

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