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Microsoft Research Asia Anniversary: The Power of 10
By Rob Knies
October 31, 2008 12:02 PM PT

Ten years—that’s how long Microsoft Research Asia has been in existence. A lot has happened over that decade: Ten years of advancing the state of the art in computer-science research. Ten years of contributions to Microsoft products used by consumers and businesses the world over. Ten years of mutually productive collaboration with academia.

Ten years of innovation.

The people who constitute Microsoft Research Asia, famously termed a few years back by Technology Review as The World’s Hottest Computer Lab, are justifiably proud of what they have achieved since the facility’s opening in 1998. And to share their excitement, they will be celebrating a decade of success with a series of events from Nov. 3-7.

  • On Nov. 3 in Beijing, the lab will host its ninth annual Microsoft Research Asia Faculty Summit, which will feature more than 200 influential researchers from 60 institutions of higher education throughout the Asia Pacific region.
  • On Nov. 4, the first half of the 10th annual Computing in the 21st Century academic symposium will be held at Peking University, giving thousands of professors and students from colleges in the Beijing area an opportunity to hear from and interact with some of the most notable computer-science researchers in the world.
  • The next day, during Innovation Day 2008, members of the media will get a chance to experience some of the most cutting-edge technologies being developed by researchers at Microsoft Research Asia and its sister labs around the world.
  • And, on Nov. 7, the second half of the two-day Computing in the 21st Century symposium occurs, this time in Singapore.

It figures to be an exciting, enlightening week, and the enthusiasm is already at a fever pitch.

“This is a very special year for Microsoft Research Asia,” says Hsiao-Wuen Hon, managing director of Microsoft Research Asia. “It marks the celebration of our very own 10th-year anniversary. We plan a series of celebrations to commemorate the past decade of exciting innovation and strong collaboration we’ve enjoyed.”

Make no doubt: The number 10 will be omnipresent during each event. But there are other figures to consider:

  • More than 350 researchers and engineers are currently employed by Microsoft Research Asia, which opened with a dozen.
  • Researchers at the lab have published more than 3,000 peer-reviewed papers in top international journals and conferences.
  • The lab has awarded more than 250 fellowships.
  • Microsoft Research Asia’s trend-setting internship program has hosted more than 3,000 interns over the last decade.
  • Work at the facility has contributed more than 200 innovations into a bevy of Microsoft products.

The hot new technologies of tomorrow are what will be on display during the Innovation Day showcase, to be held at Beijing’s Shangri-La Hotel. After a morning press conference, attendees will get a chance to examine a total of 40 technological demonstrations that have emerged from Microsoft Research labs. Understandably, the focus will be on work from Microsoft Research Asia, but demos from Microsoft Research Silicon Valley, Microsoft Research Redmond, Microsoft Research Cambridge, and Microsoft Research India also will be represented.

Microsoft Research Asia Innovation logo If that weren’t enough, thought leaders from Asia’s top universities and educational institutions will be present to share the results of their fundamental research efforts.

“Innovation Day 2008,” Hon says, “offers a sneak peek at the world’s most cutting-edge technologies.”

The Computing in the 21st Century events, being held at Centennial Hall at Peking University and at the Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre, has a theme—“New Horizon of Computing”—and a collection of computer-science luminaries to expand upon it.

Jointly hosted by the National Natural Science Foundation Commission, Microsoft Research Asia, and Peking University, the symposium will review the history of computer development and discuss the computing landscape of the future.

No fewer than three winners of the A.M. Turing Award, widely considered the Nobel Prize of computer science, will be speaking during both the Beijing and Singapore portions of the event, designed to inspire young scholars, arouse their interest in computer science, and enhance the development of related research in China and the Asia Pacific region.

The symposium also serves to demonstrate the influence of Microsoft Research Asia and to promote collaboration between the lab and the academic world.

The Beijing event will feature seven keynote speakers:

  • Hon, who will speak on “Exploring New Horizons of Computing with Microsoft Research Asia.”
  • Rick Rashid, senior vice president of Microsoft Research, whose subject will be “Making an Impact, Microsoft Research.”
  • Raj Reddy, Mozah Bint Nasser University Professor of Computer Science and Robotics in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University and recipient of the 1994 Turing Award, will talk about “Technology in Service of Humanity.”
  • Harry Shum, Microsoft corporate vice president of Search Product Development, will address “Taking Search to New Frontiers.”
  • Tony Hoare, principal researcher at Microsoft Research Cambridge and winner of the Turing Award in 1980, will outline “A Vision for the Science of Programming.”
  • Frans Kaashoek, professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will describe “Operating Systems and the Multicore Evolution.”
  • Butler Lampson, Microsoft Research technical fellow and winner of the 1992 Turing Award, will speak about “The Users of Computers: What Is Past Is Merely Prologue.”

In addition, a panel discussion entitled “New Horizons of Computing Explored at Microsoft Research Labs Around the World” will feature the managing director of five of Microsoft Research’s labs: Hon of Microsoft Research Asia, Andrew Herbert of Microsoft Research Cambridge, Rico Malvar of Microsoft Research Redmond, and Roy Levin of Microsoft Research Silicon Valley.

When the event moves to Singapore, after a welcome from Baining Guo, assistant managing director of Microsoft Research Asia, the guest of honor, Rear Admiral Ronnie Tay, chief executive officer of the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore, will speak, followed by brief talks from Su Guaning, president of Nanyang Technological University, and Tan Eng Chye, deputy president and provost of the National University of Singapore.

Rashid, Reddy, Hoare, Hon, and Lampson will reprise their presentations in Singapore, as well.

The Faculty Summit event, at the Marco Polo Parkside Beijing Hotel, will be hosted by Microsoft Research Asia’s University Relations group, headed by Lolan Song, who will deliver introductory remarks. The group pursues a broad engagement with academia and governments across the Asia Pacific region with the goals of fostering innovative research and advanced education and of promoting academic collaboration.

The theme of the Faculty Summit is “Innovate Together,” appropriate for a gathering that highlights the ongoing cooperation between the lab and the university community and underscores the collaboration between computer scientists and those in other disciplines.

A star-studded lineup of speakers includes:

  • Hon, who will discuss “Microsoft Research Asia: The Past 10 Years and the Next 10 Years.”
  • Craig Mundie, Microsoft chief research and strategy officer, whose talk is titled “Rethinking Computing.”
  • Tony Hey, Microsoft Research corporate vice president of External Research, speaking about “eScience.”
  • Chan-Mo Park, special advisor to the president of Korea for science and technology, with a talk called “Fostering Global Technical Talent: Personal Experience.”

The Faculty Summit also features a pair of panel discussions. One, called “Working Toward a World-Class Research Lab,” features Rashid, Herbert, Hon, Malvar, and Levin.

The second, “Trends of Industry-Academia Cooperation,” will be moderated by Steve Howard, head of the Department of Information Systems at Australia’s University of Melbourne. Panelists include Jin Hyung Kim, professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology; Osamu Watanabe, professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology; Paul Cheung, professor at the University of Hong Kong; Tat-Seng Chua, professor at the National University of Singapore; Wen-Lian Hsu, distinguished research fellow at Taiwan’s Academia Sinica; and Xiaofei Xu, head of the School of Computer Science and Technology at China’s Harbin Institute of Technology.

In addition, a pair of joint presentations is scheduled. “Encouraging Basic Research” features Jeannette Wing, assistant director of the Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate for the U.S. National Science Federation, and Zhaotian Zhang, deputy director of the Department of Information Science at the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

Guo and Katsushi Ikeuchi, professor at the University of Tokyo, will give a joint presentation called “eHeritage.”

The Faculty Summit concludes with an extended, 50-minute discussion called “Working Toward World-Class Universities” among Nanning Zheng, president of Xi’an Jiaotong University of China; Victor Zue, director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Shum, who preceded Hon as head of Microsoft Research Asia.

Collaboration and innovation: For Microsoft Research Asia during its anniversary week, both will be increased—by the power of 10.