Microsoft Research and the Machine Learning Future


Larry Greenemeier of Scientific American recently wrote, "Microsoft is also searching for a new chief executive for the first time in nearly 14 years, someone who can help restore at least some of the company’s former luster through skillful management and, perhaps more important, someone who has the ability to develop groundbreaking new technologies. Microsoft Research’s role in the latter is paramount. The organization’s 1,100 researchers across 13 labs around the world—a 14th opens next summer in Brazil—are working on a broad swath of projects that cut across several disciplines, ranging from basic research to software algorithms and computer science theory to more pragmatic examinations of how machine-learning and speech-recognition technologies can improve Windows Phone and Xbox."

Asked about Microsoft Research's current work, Lee responded, "First, I’d like to point out that while our role in product development is important, it’s not the reason that Microsoft Research exists… Having said that, I would point to several research areas that are key to Microsoft’s future. Machine learning—in particular an area called deep learning—is perhaps Microsoft Research’s largest investment area. When you use Windows 8, you’ll notice that as you tap on the same tiles over time, the apps launched by those tiles begin to load faster. That is because there’s machine learning built into Windows 8 that learns from your tendencies. It predicts which tiles you’ll tap next. Bing also has machine-learning capabilities. Search for 'pavlova,' and the browser figures out if you’re talking about cakes or ballet."


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Image: Courtesy Microsoft