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Bringing Innovations to Life

Innovations from Microsoft Research make their way into the marketplace through a variety of mechanisms, including a dedicated technology-transfer team, product incubations, IP licensing, and the sale of Microsoft Research products through the online Microsoft Store.

“It’s all about exchanging ideas and solving problems. with the cinematic quality of a movie, the control of a video game, and the detail of the real world. The best technology transfer occurs when the problems can meet the solutions.”

— Philip Fawcett, Principal Research Program Manager, Microsoft

We believe that successful technology transfer is a social process, not a mechanical or logistical one. It depends on people — relationships, communication, and trust. With established relationships and ongoing communication and collaboration between researchers and product teams, technology transfer can happen naturally. New ideas arise during integration meetings, and technologies born in Microsoft Research move to the company’s product and incubation teams. Once the technology-transfer process begins, close collaboration between research and product teams ensures that those ideas effectively translate into products and services that can make computers more useful, reliable, and fun.

This process delivered fundamental advances underlying many of Microsoft’s current products and services, including the natural input capabilities of the Tablet PC, graphics and artificialintelligence technology that makes Xbox games more challenging and realistic, data-mining capabilities within SQL Server that businesses can use to transform data into insight, and media-compression technologies that help Microsoft products deliver rich Internet audio and video experiences.

Recent examples of the contributions Microsoft Research has made to the company’s products and services include:

Kinect for Xbox 360. Microsoft Research work played a significant role in the success of Kinect, working on solving the complicated task of teaching a machine how to recognize people when they change poses, frown or smile, have shadows across their face, or are brightly lit. Kinect Identity, as the device’s player-recognition tool set is called, recognizes people by looking for three visual cues: the player's height, color of their clothing and their faces. By any standard, Kinect for Xbox 360 has proved to be a technological sensation. Kinect, the controller-free interface that enables users to interact with the Xbox 360 with the wave of your hand or the sound of your voice, sold 8 million units in its first 60 days on the market, a figure that makes it the fastest-selling consumer-electronics device in history, as confirmed by Guinness World Records.

Windows 7. The latest version of Microsoft’s flagship operating system incorporates a number of “under the hood” technologies from Microsoft Research that contribute to the product’s improved performance, reliability and usability. These include enhancements to handwriting recognition, graphics performance, networking and security. Additionally, the product development team made use of a number of Microsoft Research technologies to write and test code efficiently and more thoroughly identify potential security issues.

Maps. The traffic functionality in Microsoft’s Bing™ Maps uses a Microsoft Research technology called ClearFlow, which employs statistical methods to infer surface-street speeds by considering real-time speeds on highways, the properties of surface streets, and detailed geometric relationships between them. Additionally, MapCruncher technology enables users to build interactive mashups of different maps by establishing correspondences between key features in user-provided maps with their equivalents on Bing Maps.

Search and online services. Microsoft Research contributes advances that make the company’s search engine and online services more efficient, responsive, and useful. This includes new algorithms that vastly improve the relevance of search results; opinion-mining technology that crawls the Internet to detect, summarize, and present user reviews in a structured way; fast and space-efficient algorithms that cluster users and documents into buckets to provide personalized recommendations for MSN users; querycategorization technology that helps content creators research the keywords users type on Bing™ Search; and the cashback strategy, a new business model that lowers prices for products users buy through Bing Search and creates new revenue opportunities for merchants.

Photosynth®. Microsoft Photosynth automatically reconstructs a three-dimensional space from a collection of photos of a place or object. Built on groundbreaking research conducted in collaboration with the University of Washington, this technology helps people share the places and things they love with the cinematic quality of a movie, the control of a video game, and the detail of the real world.