PDC 2008: Live blog of the Microsoft Research keynote

Day three of PDC 2008 kicks off with a morning keynote from Rick Rashid, Senior Vice President for Microsoft Research. The company's robotics efforts are expected to be a prime topic of discussion for developers here.

We will be live-blogging the keynote as it takes place. Refresh this page for updates.

10:10am PT: The keynote has ended.

10:10am PT: Hodges: "We really think this will change the nature of surface computing."

Rashid: "We hope all of you have really enjoyed getting a chance to see these technologies and to see the research."

10:07am PT: SecondLight has a switchable diffuser to project the secondary image. Mark Hachman offered a nice breakdown of SecondLight last week on PC Magazine.

10:03am PT: Rick Rashid is back on stage and is introducing SecondLight, a new type of surface computer that was announced earlier this month. Steve Hodges has come on stage to show off SecondLight, which was developed in Cambridge, England.

With a SecondLight device, there is a projector underneath and an infrared camera -- it appears much like Microsoft Surface, but the difference is that it displays the image through the surface of the table. The image that is projected onto the secondary surface can be completely different from the one on the table.

9:56am PT:

9:53am PT: MacLaurin says Boku will be released early next year. It was first previewed in March 2007.

9:51am PT: Rashid is now talking about education, and teaching children how to program. Matthew MacLaurin has taken the stage to discuss making programming easy for children. "It's a life skill," says MacLaurin.

MacLaurin is demoing Boku, Microsoft Research's effort to program with a game-like interface using an Xbox 360 controller. The program editor uses a visual, iconic based language. Boku runs on both Windows and the Xbox.

9:41am PT: The WorldWide Telescope is a 24-hour virtual observatory. Rashid says that amateur astronomers have found things that experts have not. "It's really gotten a lot of attention from the scientific and educational community."

Rashid: As of today, we are releasing a new version of the WorldWide Telescope, called Equinox Beta. It has more than double the data of the initial release.

9:39am PT: Rashid: Another area people talk about is education. Science and engineering education has become an issue in the United States and other countries around the world. We're not training our kids with the skills to be successful in a technological world.

Rashid is recapping what Microsoft has done in this space, especially around robotics. Another effort is the World Wide Telescope.

9:35am PT: "Computing technology is allowing us to decode the human genome at incredible speed and relatively low cost." With this data, the industry can do a lot of analysis and tailor medicine for the appropriate disease. But the problem, Rashid says, is that there is too much noise -- too much data to analyze.

Microsoft has graphical models running looking at HIV, diabetes, etc. with machine learning technologies.

BetaNews covered Microsoft Research's efforts to help find an HIV vaccine with anti-spam technology nearly 4 years ago.

9:30am PT: Rashid: "Health care is another area where computer science and research is having a big impact."

Life really is technology, Rashid says. Your DNA is IT data.

9:29am PT: NASA is using SensorMap and VirtualEarth to monitor Juneau, Alaska.

Rashid has retaken the stage, joking that the sensors can tell if people in the audience are paying attention. A few people laughed.

9:26am PT: Here's a link to Microsoft Research's SensorMap efforts: atom.research.microsoft.com/sensewebv3/sensormap/

9:25am PT: Zhao is discussing the sensor deployments in the Swiss Alps to monitor the environment. Microsoft Research brings all this data together with cloud computing through the SenseWeb application: a Wikipedia of sensors to share data among researchers. It has been adopted by a number of teams and universities across the world.

9:22am PT: Zhao: 10,000 of these sensors are being deployed by Microsoft at its datacenters to monitor the heat from its servers, and see how well the cooling system is working.

"The information gives us various opportunities to optimize where to place computing intensive workload. This is just one example of how we can make our datacenter more energy efficient."

9:20am PT: This is a heat map of the keynote at PDC 2008.

9:16am PT: For the next decade, the community needs to look at how much energy the devices and programs consume, Zhao says.

"We have designed a prototype of a sensor device, that collect the temperature, humidity, and other environmental factors." At its core is a circuit board the size of a thumb with a 16-bit processor and 40k of RAM.

Zhao showing off the sensor data collected at PDC 2008.

9:12am PT: Zhao: "We can make our computers more energy efficient." 1.5% of total electricity use is by servers and computers. Microsoft Research is very active in energy efficient computing.

9:11am PT: Microsoft Research is working on something called DryadLINQ, which is designed to make distributed computing easy for programmers.

Rashid has invited out Feng Zhao to discuss sensor technologies, and how it impacts cloud computing and the environment in terms of energy.

9:07am PT: Ongoing research in software engineering include: Pex, CHESS, Church's Thesis, and a number of other obscurely named projects.

9:05am PT: Rashid is recapping the SLAM process, which came out of Microsoft Research and became the Vista static driver verifier. Bill Gates discussed SLAM in his 2002 keynote address at WinHEC.

9:01am PT: Rashid says a lot has changed with the funding of research in the past 8 years. There are a lot of questions about the value of basic research.

He is now explaining why research is important, like he is talking to Steve Ballmer or a group of investors. Is Rashid trying to justify his division's existence?

8:54am PT: "A lot of things you think of Microsoft have come out of the Microsoft Research team." Rashid says he ran DirectX in the beginning, as well as the Windows Media division, which started at MSR in 1992.

The Tablet PC was originally conceived in the MSR lab in Cambridge, England.

8:51am PT: Microsoft Research has published more than 4,000 papers over the past 17 years. Any computer science conference will have between 10% and 30% Microsoft papers.

8:50am PT: MSR has 850 PhD researchers. "That's a larger faculty than the entire Carnegie Mellon University," Rashid says. Redmond is the division's largest single location; the second largest is in Beijing. MSR has a large research lab in Cambridge, England and Cambridge, Mass. There's a lab in Bangalore and the San Francisco Bay area.

8:48am PT: Every Microsoft product has something that has come out of Microsoft Research. "We're run and organized much like a university computer science department....We work with the academic community in many ways, we're open about what we do."

"We invest a huge amount in working with universities," Rashid says. More than 15% of Microsoft Research funding has gone directly to universities.

8:46am PT: "Basic research is core to progress in the field of technology." Microsoft Research has had a single mission for the past 17 years. "I've never changed the way I've run the organization during that time," Rashid said. "When we do research, we expect to be at the state of the art."

8:45am PT: "If you use a Macintosh or an iPhone -- I don't recommend you do that -- then you are using some code that I have written 25 years ago," Rashid said. "If you told me that my code would be running on a cell phone, my reaction would be 'What's a cell phone?'"

8:44am PT: Rashid: What I'll be talking about today is how the investments we're making today will help all fields of science and engineering prosper.

Microsoft Research was created when most other companies were cutting back their research. The company's board proposed in 1990 to create a research group. Rashid joined Microsoft in 1991, with a background in operating systems.

Rashid invented the term NUMA and micro-kernel. He built one of the first network computer games.

8:40am PT: Rick Rashid has taken the stage. "In the last few days you have been hearing a lot about products."

8:37am PT: The keynote is starting with a video recapping the history of Microsoft Research and what areas the group explores.

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