February 2012

Jennifer Chayes Honored with Women of Vision Leadership Award by Anita Borg Institute

Jennifer Chayes, Distinguished Scientist and Managing Director, Microsoft Research New England

The Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology announced today that Jennifer Chayes, Distinguished Scientist and Managing Director of Microsoft Research New England, has been selected to receive the Women of Vision Leadership Award. Founded in 1997 by renowned computer scientist Anita Borg, the institute provides resources and programs to help industry, academia, and government recruit, retain, and develop women leaders in high-tech fields, resulting in higher levels of technological innovation.

The annual Women of Vision Leadership Award recognizes a leading technical woman who has led an important technology development or innovation, made a significant contribution to the technology industry, and inspires others. Women recognized in prior years have included the first female fellow at a major technology company, a lawyer who helped create the Mozilla Foundation, and the creator of technology that enables the visually disabled to use computers.

“Jennifer Chayes is the Women of Vision Award winner in the Leadership category. She is recognized for her work based on the impact she has had on computer science through her leadership in building research communities that bridge theoretical computer science, mathematics, physics, statistics, economics and computational biology. Through her founding and leadership of the theory group at Microsoft Research, and more recently the Microsoft Research New England lab, she has influenced and mentored hundreds of researchers. In her own research she has spearheaded extremely important foundational work on dynamic random networks in theoretical computer science. “ – Anita Borg Institute, February 28th, 2012

The Anita Borg Institute is also honoring two other leading technical women including S. Revi Sterling, Director, ICTD Graduate Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, with the Social Impact award and Sarita V. Adve, Professor, Dept. of Computer Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, with the Innovation award.

Congratulations to Jennifer and her fellow award winners on their outstanding contributions to computer science and society.

Giving Back to the Community is a Platform we always operate on

Earlier today Microsoft announced employee giving results for 2011. It was a record breaking year with Microsoft employees across the United States raising $100.5 million – including corporate matching. This brings the total amount of money raised by employees to $946 million since our giving program started in 1983.

Each full-time, U.S. based Microsoft employee receives an annual $12,000 benefit that matches donations, dollar-for-dollar, to eligible nonprofits. In 2011, 35,500 employees donated to support more than 18,000 community organizations across the globe. If an employee wishes to volunteer their personal time, we honor that donation, too. Employee volunteer time is matched $17/hour to their chosen organization. In 2011, employees committed 426,671 hours which raised $7.2 million for nonprofits. That brings the total number of volunteering hours to 1.7 million hours since we started tracking in 2006.

At NERD, our employees set a record as well by raising over $600,000 through matching gifts, payroll deductions and volunteer hours. Throughout the year we worked together to support and raise money for eligible non-profits across a range of programs:

  • In December 2011 we partnered with Cradles to Crayons and the local tech community to provide homeless and low-income children with key essentials through our Giving Tree program
  • During our October 2011 “Give Campaign” – employees organized a live auction, Easter Seals raffle, Halo tournament, bake sale and other programs which raised over $14,000
  • In June 2011 we kicked off our first Annual Day of Caring which sent over 140 employees to volunteer at 10 outstanding Cambridge organizations
  • In February 2011 we partnered with the Boys and Girls Club of Cambridge and Harmonix to create a Moovin’ & Groovin’ event for 100 local elementary and middle-school children

During the next couple of months we will be supporting a number of important community events including a Kinect Design Challenge with The Community Art Center, Girl Scouts’ Forever Green 100th Anniversary Gala, DigiGirlz Day, and Breakthrough Cambridge’s 20th Anniversary Gala.

To learn more about our employee giving and community efforts in Massachusetts please click here.

v1.0 Kinect for Windows SDK now available

Microsoft today announced the availability of version 1.0 of the Kinect for Windows SDK and runtime. Distribution partners in twelve launch countries are starting to ship Kinect for Windows hardware, enabling companies to start to deploy their solutions. The suggested retail price is $249, and later this year, Microsoft will offer special academic pricing of $149 for Qualified Educational Users.

Version 1.0 includes many improvements over the prior beta version:

  • Support for up to four Kinect sensors plugged into the same computer
  • Significantly improved skeletal tracking, including the ability for developers to control which user is being tracked by the sensor
  • Near Mode for the new Kinect for Windows hardware, which enables the depth camera to see objects as close as 40 centimeters in front of the device
  • Many API updates and enhancements in the managed and unmanaged runtimes
  • The latest Microsoft Speech components (V11) are now included as part of the SDK and runtime installer
  • Improved “far-talk” acoustic model that increases speech recognition accuracy
  • New and updated samples, such as Kinect Explorer, which enables developers to explore the full capabilities of the sensor and SDK, including audio beam and sound source angles, color modes, depth modes, skeletal tracking, and motor controls
  • A commercial-ready installer which can be included in an application’s set-up program, making it easy to install the Kinect for Windows runtime and driver components for end-user deployments.
  • Robustness improvements including driver stability, runtime fixes, and audio fixes

Locally, developers and hobbyists have been experimenting with Kinect resulting in some really cool projects and also the founding of the Kinect Boston user group. This group (with already has grown to 50+ members in just a few weeks) brings together Kinect users and developers in the greater Boston to share experiences, cool demos, and learn about developing with Microsoft’s Kinect sensor and related products.

Here are two videos that feature Kinect innovations:

Kinect BeatWheel Made for Boston Music Hack Day 2011

Microsoft Kinect Effect Video