Using web search data to detect lung cancer and swinging through the universe with Kinect – Weekend Reading: Nov. 11 edition

Nov 11, 2016   |   Susanna Ray

While the U.S. election dominated global headlines, there has been lots of other news you may have missed, including Microsoft researchers who detected lung cancer risks through web search logs, and an art exhibit where you can explore the universe from the seat of a swing. So take a moment to look at the world around you – and beyond – this weekend.

Although smoking cigarettes is the leading cause of lung cancer, nearly 20 percent of diagnoses are made in people who are non-smokers. That means geographic, demographic and genetic factors also play a role in the devastating disease. A Microsoft research labs project aims to tackle those aspects by exploring the feasibility of using anonymized web search data to learn more about lung-cancer risk factors and provide early warning to people who are candidates for disease screening.

The findings, published Thursday in JAMA Oncology, extend research from June on the feasibility of using the text of questions people ask search engines to predict diagnoses of pancreatic cancer. The machine-learning method builds on patterns found in the search queries.

“Here, we are not just looking at the text of the queries; we also consider the locations that people are in when they issue these queries, and we tie that back to contextual risk factors linked to those locations,” says study co-author Ryen White, chief technology officer for health intelligence at Microsoft Health in Redmond, Washington.

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Online risks have real-world consequences, new Microsoft research shows. Most people have had at least one negative online experience that hurt their trust in others and increased their stress or sleep deprivation, according to the preliminary results of the survey, which polled youth and adults in 14 countries.

The full study on the state of digital civility, personal online safety and digital interactions will be made available on international Safer Internet Day 2017 on Tuesday, Feb. 7. Microsoft decided to release preliminary results following the conclusion of the U.S. presidential election and in conjunction with World Kindness Day on Sunday, Nov. 13.

Ways to engage in a “digital reset” include:

— Taking charge of online reputations by searching and discovering what’s on the internet about yourself, periodically reevaluating what’s there and aiming to cultivate a positive and accurate portrayal.

— Embracing digital civility and modeling healthy behaviors for young people both online and off. These include treating others with respect, interacting in constructive ways and disagreeing without name-calling or personal attacks.

— Taking extra steps to keep kids safe online, such as making online safety a family affair. Show a genuine interest in what kids do online, and impart wisdom about risks and potential harms. Mix guidance and monitoring, and build their resilience to best equip them to tackle tricky situations when they arise.

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The Microsoft Garage is celebrating its second anniversary as a powerful resource for trying new ideas.

The Garage has evolved from a 24-hour idea factory to a program dedicated to encouraging all employees to take their ideas and bring them to life. The Garage provides resources such as expert advisors, maker spaces, hackathon tools, workshops, an intern program and product-market fit testing to empower employees to follow their passion and create a project that might just make it all the way into a Microsoft product.

“The Garage is very focused on the bleeding edge of experimentation, moving forward at all times. We help Microsoft be better at experimenting, to be faster, to test ideas and to learn by doing,” says Jeff Ramos, partner director of The Garage. “We’ve really taken Satya Nadella’s challenge to be more customer-obsessed seriously, putting projects in the hands of real customers.”

Day 1 of the Microsoft 2016 Hackathon part of //oneweek. (Photography by Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures)

The new Surface Book and Surface Dial have gone on sale and are available at Microsoft Stores and select Best Buy locations in the U.S. and Canada.

The new tablet was redesigned from the inside out to deliver twice the graphics processing power and 16 hours of battery life, with advanced cooling features, into the same sleek form as the current Surface Book. The Dial integrates with Windows 10 Global Controls and delivers a set of unique experiences such as app-specific, contextually aware toolbars.

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In response to this week’s biggest news story, Microsoft shared some thoughts on the U.S. election and on moving forward together: The peaceful transition of power has been an enduring and vital part of our democracy for over two centuries, and it remains so today, Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith wrote in a post.

“Like so many Americans, regardless of who we supported through our vote, we strongly share the view that this is a time for the nation to come together,” Smith wrote.

The results of the vote registered a strong concern about the plight of those who feel left out and left behind, he wrote, and new technology tools can play an important role in innovating to promote inclusive economic growth that helps everyone move forward. There’s also a clear opportunity to invest in infrastructure, and new data analytics and cloud technologies can contribute to these improvements.

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The Xbox holiday update is now available, making Xbox Live even more social by uniting gamers across devices, giving you access to more people to play with who share your interests and more choice in how you play. The update also builds upon our vision to foster a welcoming experience on Xbox Live where everyone is included, respected and supported.

Horror legend Sam Raimi delivers a new nightmare in “Don’t Breathe,” now available in the Windows Store three weeks before it arrives on Blu-ray.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare,” the latest entry in one of the best-selling video game franchises of all time, is now available in the Xbox and Windows Stores. It returns to the roots of the franchise with large-scale war and a focus on cinematic, immersive military storytelling.

A game pack celebrating the 10th anniversary of Gears of War is now available. It contains Gary Carmine, a trio of weapons themed to the previous Carmine brothers, commemorative anniversary weapons and emblems to collect as you play. Obtainable exclusively through gameplay, each 200 Credit pack contains one “10 Years of Gears” customization item, one emblem or bounty and a random card from the Gears of War 4 launch series of cards.

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This week on the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, we highlighted Starfield, an interactive art installation by Lab212 in Zurich. Powered by Microsoft Kinect, the installation tracks the viewer’s movements in real-time, to adjust the position of the stars, creating the illusion of swaying through outer space. This exhibit is synced with the Worldwide Telescope, allowing visitors to explore the universe from the seat of a swing.

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Even if you’re not in Zurich this weekend, we hope you find your own way to peacefully swing through our beautiful universe. Be sure to check back next Friday for another edition of Weekend Reading.

Posted by Susanna Ray

Microsoft News Center Staff

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