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Watch the TechFest 2013 Keynote

TechFest 2013 Keynote Address

Rick Rashid, Microsoft Chief Research Officer, opens TechFest 2013 addressing a shift towards more intelligent technology in an era defined by a proliferation of data, devices and services.

Download the transcript of Rick Rashid's keynote address (137 KB .pdf)

Researcher Talks

From Wet to Dry: How Machine Learning and Big Data Are Changing the Face of Biological Sciences

Until recently, the wet lab has been a crucial component of every biologist. Today's advances in the production of massive amounts of data and the creation of machine-learning algorithms for processing that data are changing the face of biological science--making it possible to do real science without a wet lab. David Heckerman shares several examples of how this transformation in the area of genomics is changing the pace of scientific breakthroughs.

Designing for Ubiquitous Computing

Bill Buxton, Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, shares his perspectives on the premise that in this emerging world of ubiquitous computing, it is vital that devices, applications, and services are designed, from the start, by taking the other members of the ecosystem into account. Individually, they must offer great value, experience, and satisfaction, and combined, great design must derive value from all the other devices, applications, and services in the ecosystem, while continually reducing overall complexity.

Project Videos

BodyAvatar: Creating 3-D Avatars with Your Body

BodyAvatar is a natural interface that lets players create imaginary 3-D avatars of any shape, using their bodies as the only input in front of a Kinect camera. The project unleashes the creativity of Kinect players, letting people turn their wildest imagination into reality without requiring knowledge of 3-D modeling tools.

Toward Large-Display Experiences

Before long, we all could have large office displays, but how will we interact with them? One way could be to have interaction menus appear next to a pen-holding hand. Another option is to use a mobile phone to navigate through and select the options we want to use.

Telling Stories with Data via Freeform Sketching

SketchInsight is an interactive whiteboard system for storytelling with data by using real-time sketching. Creating personalized, expressive data charts becomes quick and easy. The presenter simply sketches an example, and SketchInsight automatically completes the chart by synthesizing from example sketches.

Adaptive Machine Learning for Real-Time Streaming

Direct processing of real-time data can provide a crucial edge in the software-and-services industry. Combining such processing with machine learning can provide a reasoning flow and enable runtime updates of the machine-learning model. Customer scenarios in manufacturing and IT services will benefit.

ViralSearch: Identifying and Visualizing Viral Content

What does it mean for online content to "go viral?" An analysis of almost a billion information cascades on Twitter news, videos, and photos has produced the first quantitative notion of whether something has indeed gone viral, thereby enabling further research into topic experts, trending topics, and viral-incident metrics.


SandDance is a web-based visualization system that uses 3-D hardware acceleration to explore the relationships between hundreds of thousands of items. Arbitrary data tables can be loaded, and results can be filtered using facets and displayed using a variety of layouts.

Teaching Kinect for Windows to Read Your Hands

One promising direction in the evolution of Kinect for Windows is enabling hand-gesture recognition. A machine-learning project uses a large, varied set of images of people's hands to train Kinect to determine if a hand is open or closed. This enables the development of a handgrip detector, which could launch another step forward in natural user interfaces.

Making Smooth Topical Connections on Touch Devices

By representing a collection of text, image, or other documents as a grid of keywords of various font sizes indicating the words' weights, the documents' relatedness is revealed. Smooth thematic shifts become evident, connecting distant topics and guiding the user's attention.

Enabling Real-Time Business-Metadata Extraction

Real-time business information, such as current occupancy level and music loudness, can be invaluable to mobile users planning an outing. Crowdsourcing, via real-user check-ins, can gather such information to be displayed in search or to be indexed to provide more detailed real-time business metadata.

Predictive Decision-Making at the Speed of Thought

The Computational Ecology and Environmental Science (CEES) group at Microsoft Research Cambridge has developed the CEES Distribution Modeler, a browser app that enables users to visualize data, define a complex model, parameterize it, make predictions with uncertainty, and share it all transparently and in repeatable form.

Productivity Tools to Discover and Analyze Data

This project presents non-expert Excel users a set of machine-learning tools seamlessly integrated into Excel. The technology automatically can infer the values of missing cells, detect outliers, and enable users to analyze data tables more productively.