Microsoft Research, DC TechFair – tackling societal challenges

Earlier this year I highlighted some of the prototypes and projects on show at Microsoft Research TechFest. Some of those same projects are on show this week at the MSR TechFair in Washington DC — as well as some previously unseen research efforts. Social News Search for Companies is a great web based project from our FUSE Labs team. It shows a novel way to curate news about any given company on the web, using some of the same techniques you may have seen in Montage. The 3D Scanning with a Regular Camera project shows how generation of photorealistic 3D images can be achieved simply by walking around an object of interest with your phone, camera or video camera.

Our research efforts aren’t just focused on creating great software like these two examples — it’s also about tackling society’s hardest problems. WorldWide Telescope is one example that isn’t as well-known as I often think it should be, and if you haven’t had a chance to take a look at, then brace yourself for an amazing virtual observatory experience. WorldWide Telescope aggregates data and imagery from many space- and ground-based telescopes and gives users a breathtaking environment for astronomical research and science education. Schools around the world, as well as a number of planetariums are using this technology today to enhance research, teaching and learning. Our own WWT Ambassadors Program recruits retired scientists and astronomers interested in teaching science using the software. The Harvard Gazette recently wrote a great story about this work.



In an entirely different field, another project shown at TechFair is High-Performance Cancer Screening. A project that I believe shows our commitment to developing technology that can help to overcome medical challenges — in this case developing new ways to detect cancer. Screening for colon cancer involves looking inside the colon for growths – a procedure that traditionally involves inserting a camera into the body — a pretty invasive process that deters many from a potentially lifesaving procedure. The medical profession has begun to explore the potential for a Virtual Colonoscopy (VC), which uses images of the colon generated by computed-tomography (CT) scans, and the project being show at TechFair demonstrates a high-performance VCViewer — a GPU-based, 3D-rendering viewer for colon-cancer screening. The VCViewer provides a gesture-based UI for the navigation of the imagery and enables the images to be manipulated for viewing at different angles to help with discovery, analysis, and diagnosis of observed anomalies. This image processing involved was developed at the 3D Imaging Lab at Massachusetts General Hospital, and the entire project is a collaborative effort that also involves Intel and results in a non-invasive colonoscopy that takes around 3 minutes rather than 30 minutes.


There are a number of other projects on show that highlight our commitment to solving some of the hardest societal challenges. GreenUp and InnerEye are two you can find out more about from our Microsoft Research site, where you can find out more about our commitment to research that we believe has the potential to change the world.