Microsoft Research was founded on the Redmond, Wash., campus of Microsoft Corp. in 1991 to support both basic and applied research without regard to product cycles. Rick Rashid, currently charged with oversight of Microsoft’s worldwide research labs, left Carnegie Mellon University to start Microsoft Research 20 years ago—ultimately, helping Microsoft to create new foundations and fuel technology breakthroughs on which future generations could build.
Peter Lee, the current corporate vice president of Microsoft Research Redmond, came to the lab in 2010 from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and Carnegie Mellon University. Lee maintains a culture that advances the company’s original research mission. In addition to collaborating with worldwide scientific and academic communities, he encourages each division to conduct research in three basic “lanes”—basic research, mission-driven research, and a search for disruptions—in order to make the most impact on Microsoft’s near- and long-term future.
Close proximity to the product teams at Microsoft proved valuable in the early days, and that remains true today. The company has ensured that researchers located in all its labs around the world are just as connected to the product groups through the Microsoft Research Program Management team, which is dedicated to bridging the long-range research and near-term product development functions within the company. As a result, new ideas and opportunities born in all of Microsoft’s global research labs are shared with the product teams who take the research and turn it into customer-ready features.
The Redmond lab has the greatest concentration of researchers, working across the broadest range of research areas in the company. Researchers in the Redmond lab focus on many different areas of research, including human-computer interaction, artificial intelligence, search technologies, natural user interfaces (NUI), networking, HIV vaccine development and the theoretical mathematical underpinnings of computer science. Several Redmond projects cover multiple disciplines and may be found in more than one category.
- Algorithms and theory. The Algorithms and Theory Group works in several emerging fields within theoretical computer science: game theory and economics, which includes pricing algorithms and market equilibriums; privacy in statistical databases; and quantum computing. The group also investigates algorithms and mathematics for the Internet, including Web search, social network analysis, spam fighting and Web security. Classical areas of interest include cryptology (foundations of cryptography and cryptanalysis), algebraic computation, random structures, and spectral methods for data analysis.
- Data management and data mining. The Data Management, Exploration and Mining Group focuses on solving two key problems in information management: reducing the total cost of ownership of information management, and enabling flexible and rich modes of interaction with stored information, while recognizing the key role the Web plays in information delivery and publishing.
- Hardware. The research of the Hardware Devices Group focuses on developing devices that will connect users more intimately, naturally and efficiently with their computing environment. The group researches many types of devices, including large displays, wearable devices and micro-electromechanical systems. It collaborates with other groups to build the hardware that will support the next generation of software.
- Human-computer interaction and social computing. Research on human-computer interaction plays a central role across multiple teams at Microsoft Research. The work is focused on advancing the way users interact with computing devices. This includes search, access and information management; the display of complex data and information; user modeling and activity recognition; efficient input and interaction; the role of automation; and the coupling of intelligent systems with direct manipulation.
- Information retrieval and knowledge management. The Information Retrieval and Knowledge Management Group researches information retrieval, filtering and management. Other work has explored the use of classification technologies and the development of systems that will enrich the user experience. The group looks primarily at Internet-scale searching and is trying to understand the ways in which information on that scale develops by working on the core technologies for providing the most relevant and freshest search results possible. In addition, the group looks at theoretical models for the Web, trying to abstract the properties of the Web graph that links pages together.
- Machine learning, adaptation and intelligence. The Machine Learning, Adaptation and Intelligence Group pursue research on automated reasoning, adaptation and the theories and applications of decision-making and learning. The research goals for the group include learning from data and data mining. By building software that automatically learns from data, the group designs applications that have new functions and flexibility. The group’s research focuses on using statistical methods for the development of more advanced and intelligent computer systems.
- Multimedia, visual information processing and graphics. The Multimedia, Visual Information Processing, and Graphics Group focuses on new multimedia and graphic experiences that are made possible with the growth in computing power and storage. The group’s research focus spans the linear and interactive media spectrum across television, broadband and gaming. The group seeks to address the challenges involved in the high computational cost of producing, transmitting and displaying complex models by researching geometric compression and multi-resolution representations.
- Research in software engineering. The Research in Software Engineering (RiSE) Group was created to advance software engineering by improving software development through a better understanding of the process. The group is organized into 10 broad research areas that address the current, interdependent challenges of global software development, including multicore and Web concurrency, reliability, security, and energy-efficient computing. Its work impacts a diverse set of research topics such as experimental software engineering, human interactions in programming, programming-language design and implementation, and theorem proving.
- Security and cryptography. The Security and Cryptography Group studies various aspects of security related to computer systems: the design of increasingly secure systems; the usability, evaluation and certification of security products; the robustness of digital watermarking algorithms; threat analysis for open networks; and database privacy. In addition, the group is concerned about security for mobile devices. To further technology in this area, the group researches new cryptographic applications; designs and analyzes cryptographic protocols, especially authentication; and provides internal consulting on Microsoft products. The group is particularly interested in working in the areas of system security, network security, cryptography, anti-virus, anti-spam and anti-spyware.
- Software development. The Software Development Group’s research in software development spans all aspects of making developers more productive and software more trustworthy. It includes programming language design, compilers, software specification and verification, development environments and tools, runtime environments, formal models of software systems, software performance monitoring and optimization, and software quality improvement.
- Speech and natural language. The Speech and Natural Language Group designs and builds software that will analyze, understand and generate languages that humans use naturally, so that eventually users will be able to address their computer as though they were addressing another person. Areas of focus include speech signal processing, speech recognition, spoken language systems and natural language processing.
- Systems, architecture, mobility and networking. Computers now operate in a connected and often mobile world. The Systems, Architectures, Mobility and Networking Group’s research into operating systems, networks and distributed computing is focused on developing technologies that enable computers to operate more effectively in a networked environment, and that provide the infrastructure required to enable the deployment, operation, management and security of distributed applications.
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