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Product Contributions 2008

The technologies featured here are just a small representation of the Microsoft Research technology transfers into Microsoft products that shipped in 2008.


  • Machine configuration change for replicated state library (RSL). Microsoft Research contributed to the RSL that is used for fault tolerance in the Azure Services Platform. The contribution included working out details of configuration change within the replication algorithm, which ensures that service continues even if a significant percentage of the servers in the system have failed.

Games for Windows — LIVE Software Development Kit

  • Network Emulator for Windows Toolkit (NEWT). NEWT is a software-based solution that can emulate the behavior of both wired and wireless networks using a reliable physical link, such as an Ethernet.


  • Real-time video effects using the graphics processing unit (GPU). Microsoft Research developed a shader-level library for performing general-purpose computation on a GPU. The library was used to develop real-time geometric distortion video effects that add to user enjoyment. The effects include pinch, punch and twirl.
  • Geodesic distance transforms for fun effects. Microsoft Research developed a new algorithm for fast, edge-sensitive image processing, called geodesic distance transforms. One of the applications of the new algorithm is giving images a cartoon look.
  • Digital effects for video chatting enable users to attach virtual face accessories such as sunglasses or a mustache, distort their face to create a “magic lens” effect, and blur the background to protect the privacy of their room or office.

Live Mesh

  • The partitioning and recovery service (PRS) enables Live Mesh datacenter services to partition user data across a large number of servers. The PRS made the development of the server code easier by providing a number of novel properties, such as strong consistency for soft state, and guaranteed notifications to trigger state republishing.

Live Search Maps

  • Traffic-based routing using Clearflow. Clearflow employs statistical methods that infer surface street speeds by jointly considering real-time speeds on highways, the properties of the surface streets, and detailed geometric relationships between highways and surface streets.
  • MapCruncher enables a user to convert a static image of a map into an interactive online map that overlays Live Search Maps. Using the MapCruncher interface, the user establishes a correspondence between particular features on the static map (such as road intersections, corners of buildings, or any visible features of the landscape or architecture) with the same features shown on Live Search Maps.

MSN Content Director Services CDs v. 1.3

  • Personalized recommendations for MSN users. The product team needed fast and space-efficient algorithms to cluster users and documents into buckets for providing recommendations and for enabling duplicate detection. Microsoft Research developed a practical algorithm and code based on min hash/locality sensitive hashing.

MSN keyword intelligence platform (KIP)

  • Query categorization for MSN KIP is a tool MSN provides for content creators to enable research on the keywords that users are typing on Live Search. With Search Labs, Microsoft Research produced the query categorization technology used in KIP.

Microsoft Expression Encoder 2

  • The pixel-adaptive deinterlacer enables users to convert interlaced video (for example, 1080i high-definition, interlaced television format) into progressive video (1080p high-definition, progressive format). Users can also double the frame rate (generate 2x slow motion) by deinterlacing each of the fields in a frame.

Microsoft Office Pinyin IME 2007

  • Office Pinyin IME 2007 continually updates the vocabulary list that helps users input words in east Asian languages. The technologies mine new words for the vocabulary list from Live Search query logs, and ensure that these new words flow continually into the hands of users via a Web service. The result is that the system makes it easier for users to enter sentences in these languages.

Microsoft Solver Foundation

  • Disolver algorithms, stochastic local search algorithms. Microsoft Research contributed key constraint-solving algorithms and stochastic local search algorithms to the Microsoft Solver Foundation, which enables users to more rapidly explore a variety of what-if analyses.

NET Framework 3.5 SP1 and Visual Studio 2008 Service Pack 1

  • Mapping engine for simplified database programming. Microsoft Research developed three core components of the ADO.NET Entity Framework: a declarative language with well-defined semantics that puts a wide range of mapping scenarios within reach of nonexpert users; a new approach to update translation using algorithms for materialized view maintenance, which handles more expressive mapping than past approaches do; and an algorithm to translate mappings into bidirectional views, which are functions that drive query and update processing in the runtime engine.

Origami Experience

  • Origami picture password. The click logon password algorithm allows users to enter a password on devices with graphical input (touch pad, stylus or mouse) by clicking on specific pixels of a custom image. When entering a password, the user is given limited tolerance for inaccuracy in the selection of pixels.


  • People relationship mining for xRank enabled the Live Search STC Domain Integration Team to determine the relationship between athletes at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games from a large set of Web documents in online news sites. Based on these relationships, users could discover an athlete’s teammates and competitors as well as other related people.

Product search opinion index

  • Opinion mining technology crawls the Internet to detect, summarize and present user reviews in a structured way that provides relevant information and a total picture of a product.

Microsoft Live Search

  • Chinese auto-speller is an algorithm that can automatically alter ill-formed queries into their correct forms. It manages errors such as correct pronunciation but wrong character, Pinyin to Chinese, and URL spelling errors.
  • The cashback strategy started in Microsoft Research with the idea of payment virtuous cycles as a means to create a new business model that accrues value to both the users of Live Search and the merchants that participate in the ecosystem.
  • The face detector feature allows users to filter Live Search Images results by face or by head and shoulders. When the filter is enabled, the returned images are only face images.

Windows Live Photo Gallery

  • Face detector. Windows Live Photo Gallery now detects faces in photos a user is editing. The detected faces are then highlighted for tagging by the user.

Xbox 360

  • Kodu. Kodu is a new visual programming language designed to be a user-friendly approach to creating games. It was developed to be accessible for children and enjoyable for anyone. The programming environment runs on Xbox, allowing rapid design iteration using only a game controller for input.

Xbox Development Kit

  • Network Emulator for Windows Toolkit (NEWT). NEWT is a software-based emulator that can imitate the behavior of both wired and wireless networks using a reliable physical link, such as an Ethernet.

Product Incubation

Incubation is an important part of the innovation ecosystem at Microsoft. Microsoft Research collaborates with several product incubation teams to deliver cutting-edge technologies through its applied research. Live Labs, Office Labs, DevLabs, SQL Labs, the adCenter Incubation Lab, the Internet Services Research Center, and the Cloud Computing Futures group are examples of teams that bring together top-notch researchers and product teams to incubate and rapidly prototype new technologies and services. With the ever-changing pace of the Internet age, incubation groups allow Microsoft to be more nimble and accelerate the pace of innovation even further, so that Microsoft Research can rapidly deliver technologies to customers and drive Microsoft’s overall growth.

Following are examples of 2008 incubations:

DevLabs Projects

  • CHESS is a tool for finding and reproducing heisenbugs in concurrent programs. CHESS repeatedly runs a concurrent test, ensuring that every run takes a different interleaving. If an interleaving results in an error, CHESS can reproduce the interleaving for improved debugging. CHESS is available for both managed and native programs.
  • Pex — automated white box testing for Microsoft .NET. Pex (program exploration) produces a traditional unit test suite with high code coverage. A parameterized unit test is simply a method that takes parameters, calls the code under test, and states assertions. Given a parameterized unit test written in a .NET language, Pex automatically produces a small unit test suite with high code and assertion coverage. To do so, Pex performs a systematic white box program analysis.

Live Labs Technology Previews

  • Microsoft Photosynth automatically reconstructs a three-dimensional space from a collection of photos of a place or an object. It was born out of a collaboration between Microsoft Research and the University of Washington and the groundbreaking research that resulted in a prototype called Photo Tourism.
  • Political Streams was released for a limited period during the 2008 U.S. presidential election. The goal was to provide, at a glance, the stories (both in the news and in social media) that were attracting the most attention. Using text mining technologies and structured data, the application identified the people and places associated with those stories.

Office Labs Prototypes

  • Chart Advisor is a research prototype developed by Office Labs to test alternate methods for creating charts in Microsoft Office Excel 2007. Chart Advisor suggests charts that are appropriate for the selected data. Microsoft Research and the Excel team analyzed thousands of charts from the Internet along with their corresponding data sets.
  • Email Prioritizer helps people manage e-mail overload. It provides a Do Not Disturb button that temporarily pauses the arrival of new e-mail, and prioritizes e-mail to help users focus on their most important e-mail messages. It was inspired by the Microsoft Research Priorities project.
  • StickySorter creates, edits and categorizes virtual sticky notes. StickySorter reduces the time required to capture notes from a brainstorming session and provides easier access to the information. StickySorter was developed by individuals in the Office Design Group and Microsoft Research.
  • Touch Wall is a large-format display prototype developed as a way to explore multitouch interaction models in presentation and collaboration scenarios. Microsoft Research has been developing the multitouch tracking technology for more than five years.

SQL Labs Projects

  • U Rank is a search engine that allows people to organize, edit and annotate search results, as well as share information with others. It is a Microsoft Research prototype that enables users to re-rank search results, move results from one search to another, add notes and otherwise edit searches.

IP Licensing

Technologies developed within Microsoft Research are sometimes licensed externally through the company’s IP Ventures program. IP licensing is a collaborative approach to bringing great ideas to customers and driving industry innovation, product choice and market opportunity. IP licensing presents a tangible business opportunity to venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and government economic development organizations to help stimulate the development of local economies and connect with the global market. By creating empowering new technologies, enhancing existing products and services, exploring the frontiers of computing, and using these technologies internally as well as licensing them externally, Microsoft Research not only is further helping Microsoft, but also is bringing innovative ideas and technology to customers — driving innovation throughout the industry and enabling businesses to realize their full potential.

The following list is representative of just some of the IP that Microsoft Research licensed in 2008:

  • Digital camera calibration technology. Fast Corp. in Japan licensed digital camera calibration technology developed by Microsoft Research to improve the precision of its various image- processing products and accelerate the development of new inspection systems and other products.
  • Drawing recognition technology developed in Microsoft Research was licensed to Sabi Inc., a Seattle-based startup, for its revolutionary reading game ItzaBitza, which combines learning to read with cutting-edge drawing technology.
  • Text-input technologies for mobile devices developed by Microsoft Research were licensed by Beijing Komoxo Mobile Software Inc. The licensed patents enable Komoxo to integrate Microsoft’s statistical language modeling methods into its next-generation text-input engine for smaller-sized keypad and touch-screen devices, and deliver new mobile innovations to consumers around the world.
  • World Wide Media eXchange (WWMX). PlanetEye is for travelers looking to experience the world differently. The goal of PlanetEye is to immerse travelers in the essence of a destination. The company took the vision of WWMX and created a business around it.

Microsoft Store

The majority of the work undertaken in the Microsoft Research labs is longer-term, pure research that ships in Microsoft products; however, a few compelling innovations rapidly develop from research concept to production level and are delivered to users in a more immediate, direct fashion through the online Microsoft Store. Examples include the following:

  • AutoCollage is an advanced computer vision and image-processing program that allows users to easily compile a set of individual photographs into one seamless collage. In just a few clicks, users can transform a group of photos into a single collage image that can be printed; used in e-postcards, Web pages or desktop backgrounds; or e-mailed to family and friends.
  • Microsoft Automatic Graph Layout (MSAGL), formerly known as GLEE, is a .NET tool for laying out and visualizing directed graphs. It enables users to represent complex directed graphs, such as those found in business management, manufacturing and network analysis, as well as phylogenetic trees, which are used in bioinformatics research.