Collaborative Research (CORE) Program Invitation for Proposals

Collaborative Research Program Invitation for ProposalsMicrosoft Research is pleased to announce an invitation for proposals for collaborative research (CORE) projects, with awardees receiving funding for the 2014 fiscal year. Microsoft Research sponsors collaborative research projects in Japan for local researchers to advance the state of the art in research, inspire technological innovation, foster young researchers, and to establish Microsoft as a valuable research and technology partner for higher education. 

CORE proposal submission process

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1. Applicants

The following are eligible to apply for this award:

  • Faculty or researchers from a Japanese University that awards degrees at the baccalaureate level or above by MEXT
  • PhD holders in related research areas who are currently working at a university or institute in Japan
  • Junior faculty and young researchers who obtained a PhD within the last five years and are currently working at a university or institute in Japan are strongly encouraged to apply
  • New applicants who have not received a CORE award during the past year

Notes

  • An applicant may not submit more than one application.
  • Award recipients from the prior year are not eligible for this award.

2. Research topics

The proposed research should relate to current Microsoft "Research Areas" listed on the following pages:

Additional topics of interest

We welcome proposals that demonstrate innovative research and application—particularly in the following areas.

Urban Informatics

(Microsoft Research contact: Dr. Xing Xie)

For the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas. In just a few decades, 70 percent of people will live in cities. With rapid urbanization, enabling modern cities to deliver services effectively, efficiently, and sustainably while keeping citizens safe, healthy, prosperous, and well-informed is among the century’s most important undertakings. Big data empowered by cloud computing makes it possible for researchers to tackle the grand challenges of urban informatics.

Windows Azure
Windows Azure is Microsoft's application platform for the public cloud. Microsoft currently operates Windows Azure in data centers around the world. In Asia, there are Windows Azure data centers located in Hong Kong and Singapore. Public preview for Windows Azure services was made available on June 6, 2013, in China. With the power of Windows Azure, it is now possible to perform big data computations in the cloud

Proposal topics
We are looking forward to proposals that address the critical challenges facing cities, encourage mutually beneficial collection and sharing of data, and have the potential to make a significant impact to accelerate urban informatics research. We expect to foster a research community. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

  • Smart, green buildings – Collecting, mining, and visualizing heterogeneous sensor data in modern smart buildings for energy efficiency and emission reduction
  • Smart campuses – Mobile sensing, cloud-empowered smartphone services to enhance campus life
  • Urban traffic – Crowd sensing of urban traffic patterns and anomalies to improve driving experiences, road network configurations, and urban planning
  • Air quality – Inferring fine-grained air quality in a city with big data, identifying the root cause of air pollution, and protecting the environment.
  • Energy consumption – Monitoring a city’s energy consumption through a variety of channels
  • Social happiness – Deriving a multi-granular, aspect-oriented happiness index
  • Understanding urban lifestyles – Exploring the spectrum of urban lifestyles based on heterogeneous human behavioral data
  • Satellite remote sensing for urban computing – Using satellite image data to facilitate urban traffic management, urban planning, air quality inference, and disaster evaluation and evacuation

Related research at Microsoft Research Asia
Below are some examples of related research at Microsoft Research Asia. We welcome proposals that share common or complementary interests.

Urban computing
Urban computing has been a research area at Microsoft Research Asia since March 2009. Urban computing is a concept whereby every urban sensor, device, person, vehicle, building, and street can be used to probe city dynamics to enable city-wide computing that serves people and their cities. Urban computing aims to smartly enhance both human life and the urban environment through a recurrent process of sensing, mining, understanding, and improving. Urban computing also aims to deeply understand the nature and sciences behind the phenomenon occurring in urban spaces, using a variety of heterogeneous data sources, to include information about traffic flows, human mobility, geographic and map data, the environment, energy consumption, populations, and economics.

By analyzing and mining city dynamics, a series of urban computing applications have been enabled to:

  • Infer finer-grained air quality throughout a city
  • Monitor city gas consumption
  • Discover regions of different functions
  • Allow large-scale dynamic taxi ridesharing
  • Find smart driving directions for end users
  • Glean a city’s flawed urban planning
  • Develop a passenger-cabbie recommendation system
  • Detect anomalous city events
  • Construct popular routes from check-ins

LifeSpec
Understanding urban lifestyles is essential to many scientific disciplines and has a profound business impact for targeted marketing. LifeSpec is built to summarize an individual's lifestyle, as well as to explore the spectrum of urban lifestyles, in a computational way. Specifically, we have developed an algorithm to connect multiple social network accounts from millions of individuals and to collect their heterogeneous behavioral data—for example, check-in and interest data generated when a user engages in activities that could include listening to a song, watching a movie, or attending an offline event. In addition, a Bayesian nonparametric approach is derived to generate the lifestyle spectrum of a group of individuals, integrating the collected behavioral data and social links. Extensive experimental results suggest that LifeSpec offers a powerful paradigm for revealing an individual's lifestyle from multiple dimensions, and uncovering lifestyle commonalities and variations of a group with various demographic attributes. Research provides emerging implications for online privacy, personalized recommendation, and advertising.

Big (sensor) data
With the proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem, mobile sensors, and “soft” sensors, we are seeing demands for the big sensor data (BSD) platform in several markets. BSD is a unified device-and-cloud platform that collects, stores, and analyzes large sets of physical and “soft” sensor data. Information is fed back to the real world to form a complete loop. In contrast to traditional big data, BSD are spatial, environmental, human-behavioral, and time-sensitive. Through multiple projects, we have begun to scratch the surface of this grand challenge.

  • In the LIVESYNERGY project, we designed and implemented a novel way to detect human presence indoors.
  • In the NAKAHI project, we use the power of the cloud to profile and optimize data classifiers for mobile devices, depending on the current device context and sensor data characteristics.
  • In the BUILDING-AND-HUMAN ANALYTICS project, we have been rethinking smart buildings from human-centric perspectives: what occupants experience, how they utilize resources/spaces/appliances, and how they respond to system feedback.

Interactive visual analytics for decision making
Interactive visual analytics leverages human intelligence, especially visual perceptional systems, to facilitate decision making from huge amounts of data. Interactive visual analytics has the potential to dramatically transform business as well as aid in scientific discovery, public health, emergency response, and public safety. We are engaged in research to design and develop novel visual metaphors and interactive visualization algorithms and technologies that help users consume huge amounts of complex data to see, communicate, and process information in intuitive and novel ways. This includes research in the areas of interactive visual text analytics and interactive visual social network analysis.

Related resources

Linking Language with Knowledge and Context

(Contact: Dr. Katsumi Tanaka)

In this big data era, how to utilize those available huge data is becoming critically important for society. Technologies for searching and seeking information, mining and analyzing information, and designing/visualizing extracted information have been increasingly recognized as intelligent tools, which help human to be engaged in creative intelligent activities.

  • Search and mining
  • Data analysis
  • Information design and visualization

Linking Language with Knowledge and Context

(Microsoft Research contact: Dr. Junichi Tsujii)

Computer systems have been increasingly recognized as intelligent agents who participate in creative endeavor with humans or help humans to be engaged in creative endeavors. To develop real computational processes involved in linking language with knowledge and context, and to implement these processes as computational systems are crucial steps to enhance the ability of computer systems as our intelligent partners.

  • Cognitive modeling of language understanding
    The process of understanding language is a typical process of information integration. Not only meanings of language expressions but also information of other modalities such as gestures, audio-visual signals are integrated to reach understanding of sentences, either in speech or textual forms. Eye tracking experiments have revealed even very early stages of language processing such as parsing are affected by contextual information. To model computational processes in human language processing and understanding is the key to develop more flexible, natural and dynamic interaction systems than we currently have.
  • Computing intra- and inter-textual structures
    Sentences are basic units of propositions, and how structures and meanings of sentences can be computed has been studied intensively in computer science and linguistics. However, the research on how to capture structures and meanings beyond the sentence level has hardly been studied. Such research would be essential for intelligent summarization of multiple texts, understanding of chronological development of ideas in a community, systematic organization of information in a set of related texts, and so forth.
  • Knowledge discovery and hypothesis generation from text
    One of the greatest challenges in text mining is a system that can discover and create new pieces of knowledge implicit in a set of given documents. Straightforward application of data mining techniques to text has not been so successful. We need to combine the techniques of information extraction—such as NER (named entity recognition), RR (relation extraction), which map text to existing knowledge—with discovery techniques that augment or change existing knowledge. Related research includes “understanding by reading,” “contradiction discovery,” and “textual entailment.”
  • Intention recognition from limited input
    A major challenge in information retrieval, question-answering, and dialogue systems is how to identify users’ intention in a short utterance and/or a small set of keywords. One has to enrich users’ input and identify users’ intention by considering the users’ context. The context includes preceding utterances, domain knowledge, user profiles, and so forth.

3-D Vision

(Microsoft Research contact: Dr. Yasuyuki Matsushita)

Computing representations of the three-dimensional (3-D) world geometry and appearance is gaining increasing interest. Depth sensors and 3-D printers are becoming more available, and 3-D representations are now ubiquitous. What’s next? We are interested in exploring the future of 3-D computer vision together with academic researchers. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

  • 3-D and appearance acquisition and modeling
    Obtaining 3-D shape and appearance from real-world observations is an important first step in 3-D vision and its applications. With increasing availability of depth sensors, 3-D acquisition is becoming an easier problem; however, it is still a challenging task to acquire high-fidelity shape and appearance of the real-world in an efficient manner.
  • 3-D for general computer vision tasks
    Shape information gives significant information to various applications. For example, the task of object recognition and detection becomes much more tractable with the 3-D shape information than only with 2-D images. Shape gives more cues in physics-based vision, for example, reflectance analysis and illumination estimation. Correspondence problems may become more constrained using the 3-D information. We are interested in “shape-based” approaches to solving general computer vision problems that remain difficult only with 2-D images.
  • Higher-level applications of 3-D
    Once we have 3-D shapes and enhanced computer vision methods for solving the general tasks with the support of 3-D information, what are anticipated new applications?

Human-Computer Interaction: Intelligent Hardware and Software

(Microsoft Research contacts: Dr. Hong Tan, Dr. Masaaki Fukumoto, and Dr. Koji Yatani)

The Human-Computer Interaction group at Microsoft Research Asia invites researchers to collaborate with us in creating the next-generation of user interfaces. We encourage proposal submissions on (but not limited to) the following topics as they are closely related to our group’s research agenda:

  • Novel devices and materials for interactive systems
    Novel devices and materials can bring strong impact on interaction and change user experience with computers. They can break existing barriers, and realize downsizing, low power consumption, and low-cost solutions. This sub-theme investigates novel devices and materials and their applications in interactive systems.

Example projects in this sub-theme are:

  • Highly deformable displays, sensors, and electronics
  • Ultra small form-factor devices, including wearable sensors and actuators
  • Novel sensing and display technologies
  • Novel haptic feedback methods and actuator devices
  • Interactive systems and applications using devices and materials above
  • Intelligent interactive systems
    As computers become more powerful and datasets become more diverse and huge, intelligence now has a more important role in interactive systems for offering an effective interface for user’s tasks. This sub-theme investigates interactive systems with intelligence to support user activities of problem solving, sense-making, and learning. It emphasizes the development of systems and explorations of applications rather than simple creation of interaction techniques.

Example projects in this sub-theme are:

  • Systems for supporting creativity-related activities (for example, story-telling, brainstorming, information gathering, or collaborative writing)
  • Information visualization tools for various types of media and data
  • Data-driven and/or theory-driven analytic tools
  • Intelligent interfaces for facilitating user’s presentations

3. Microsoft researcher

In your proposal, state the Microsoft Research researcher with whom you propose to collaborate, as well as how the collaboration will occur (for example, meeting, workshop, short stay at the Microsoft Research Asia lab, or dispatch of interns).

4. Research grant 

The grant will be awarded as funding to the university or institute on behalf of the awardee for their selected research project. Unless otherwise arranged for outcomes, a memorandum of understanding clearly stating the following four points will apply. Please specify in the proposal a special arrangement for outcomes, if any. The receiving party of the funding must agree to the following requirements:

  1. The award shall be used solely to support basic research in the area of research detailed above.
  2. As soon as they are generated, all results derived from the research must be placed in the public domain, freely and without restrictions, and accordingly the university shall waive all proprietary right, title, and interest in and to such results.
  3. This grant must be acknowledged in all publications, press releases, and other publicity that is connected with the research program detailed above.
  4. The results must be presented to the IJARC Academic Advisory Committee and Microsoft Research at an annual CORE project review meeting, which tentatively takes place in 2015 at a date to be announced. The selected winners are also highly encouraged to attend the CORE review meeting of the prior year's projects, which will be held in June 2014.

5. Duration and size of project

    • Duration/starting date: Basically one year from April 1, 2014
      • Two-year project proposals on the topics "Urban informatics" and "Information analysis, design, and visualization" are acceptable.
    • Funding amount:
      • Up to JPY 2,000,000 per project
      • Up to JPY 5,000,000 for proposals on the topics of “Urban informatics” or “Information Analysis, Design, and Visualization”
    • Number of awards: Based on the quality of the proposals, approximately six to eight projects will be selected.

6. Proposal format

Proposals should be written in English with full details of the project. The proposal should be seven pages maximum, typed in 10 pt. font or larger, double-spaced, and in either Microsoft Office Word or PDF format. Proposals that do not meet these requirements will be automatically excluded from consideration.

Provide the following information about your proposed research:

  • Problem statement: What is the problem area addressed by the proposal and why is it important? What is the potential contribution to the field of the project if successful?
  • Expected outcomes: What tangible assets, if any, will be created or produced as a result of the proposed project?
  • Research schedule: When is the project to be completed? What milestones will be used to measure progress of the project and when will they be completed?
  • Collaboration plan: If any collaborative opportunity with Microsoft Research Asia researchers is desired, clearly state specific collaboration methods (for example, meeting or workshop, short stay in lab, or dispatch of interns).
  • Budget planning: Provide a budget breakdown that describes how the award will be used, including hardware or software purchases, salaries, and other costs.
  • Use of Microsoft technologies: Describe the Microsoft tools and technologies (if any) to be used in this project. While the use of Microsoft technologies is not a condition of this invitation for proposals, any proposal relying exclusively on non-Microsoft technologies should provide a justification for why this must be the case. Particularly, we encourage the use of Windows Azure for the deployment of server applications. Use the Windows Azure pricing calculator to estimate the resources you need, and account for your results in your budget breakdown.
  • Related research: Provide a brief summary of the current state of the art in this field, including references, where appropriate.
  • Qualifications of principal investigator: Include a brief description of any relevant prior research, teaching, publication, or other professional experience. A detailed vita or list of publications is not required.

7. Application form

Complete the application form and submit it by the application deadline of 15:00 (3:00 P.M.), September 23, 2013.

8. Selection of awardees

    • First selection – The selection will be made by the Academic Advisory Committee and Microsoft Research. Results will be provided by email. The selected researchers are expected to attend the second selection interview as follows.
    • Second selection – Interviews at the Microsoft Japan office in Tokyo in December 2013. The interview consists of a 15-minute PowerPoint presentation and 10 minutes of questions and answers. The IJARC Academic Advisory Committee and Microsoft Research will interview the applicants and determine the finalists. The official announcement will be made in January 2014.

9. Personal information

Please read "Handling of personal information" in the cover page of the proposal before submission.

10. Application deadline

The submission deadline is Monday, September 23, 2013, 15:00 (3:00 P.M.).

 

Now accepting proposals

 

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