Microsoft Research Podcast
About this podcast
An ongoing series of conversations bringing you right up to the cutting edge of Microsoft Research.
About this podcast
An ongoing series of conversations bringing you right up to the cutting edge of Microsoft Research.
Microsoft Research Podcast
124 - Econ4: Uncovering how decision-making shapes individuals and society through behavioral public economics featuring Evan Rose and Hunt Allcott
In the world of economics, researchers at Microsoft are examining a range of complex systems—from those that impact the technologies we use to those that inform the laws and policies we create—through the lens of a social science that goes beyond the numbers to better understand people and society. In this episode, Senior Principal Researcher Hunt Allcott talks with Postdoctoral Researcher Evan Rose about Allcott’s work exploring the everyday decisions people face, like buying fuel-efficient cars or taking out payday loans, and how a clearer understanding of these decisions can shape meaningful public policy. Allcott shares how his and others’ research shows that policy can often have complex outcomes resulting in hidden benefits and drawbacks, as in the case of taxes on sugary beverages. The researchers also discuss why individuals often feel the competing motivations of making bad versus good decisions—a tension that often lies front-and-center in scenarios primed for behavioral public economics research. https://www.microsoft.com/research
123 - Econ3: Understanding the media ecosystem and how it informs public opinion in the internet age featuring Hunt Allcott and David Rothschild
In the world of economics, researchers at Microsoft are examining a range of complex systems—from those that impact the technologies we use to those that inform the laws and policies we create—through the lens of a social science that goes beyond the numbers to better understand people and society. Interviewed by Senior Principal Researcher Hunt Allcott, Economist David Rothschild discusses how the news media has evolved alongside social media and the internet, from story development to distribution of news via aggregators and wire services. Rothschild illuminates how and where people are consuming news and shares some of the strategies he’s seeing news outlets use to appeal to their audiences. He also covers research insights into media bias, misinformation, and how this knowledge could inform the future of news for the better. In addition, the researchers talk about Rothschild’s work with Project Ratio, which looks at how the news ecosystem impacts public opinion and political polarization while providing a multi-faceted approach to understanding these outcomes through data and infrastructure. https://www.microsoft.com/research
122 - Econ2: Causal machine learning, data interpretability, and online platform markets featuring Hunt Allcott and Greg Lewis
In the world of economics, researchers at Microsoft are examining a range of complex systems—from those that impact the technologies we use to those that inform the laws and policies we create—through the lens of a social science that goes beyond the numbers to better understand people and society. In this episode, Senior Principal Researcher Dr. Hunt Allcott speaks with Microsoft Research New England office mate and Senior Principal Researcher Dr. Greg Lewis. Together, they cover the connection between causal machine learning and economics research, the motivations of buyers and sellers on e-commerce platforms, and how ad targeting and data practices could evolve to foster a more symbiotic relationship between customers and businesses. They also discuss EconML, a Python package for estimating heterogeneous treatment effects that Lewis has worked on as part of the ALICE (Automated Learning and Intelligence for Causation and Economics) project at Microsoft Research. https://www.microsoft.com/research
121 - Econ1: Using microeconomics to solve mass incarceration featuring Hunt Allcott and Evan Rose
In the world of economics, researchers at Microsoft are examining a range of complex systems—from those that impact the technologies we use to those that inform the laws and policies we create—through the lens of a social science that goes beyond the numbers to better understand people and society. In this episode, Dr. Hunt Allcott, Senior Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research New England, talks with Dr. Evan Rose, Postdoctoral Researcher, whom Allcott describes as “one of the most engaging and talented researchers in applied microeconomics today.” They’ll discuss how Rose’s experience teaching adult learners at San Quentin State Prison has resonated throughout his research, and they’ll delve into what his and others’ work is uncovering about the criminal justice system today, including the effects of incarceration and parole, impacts of ban-the-box hiring practices, and racial disparities and discrimination. https://www.microsoft.com/research
120 - Advancing Excel as a programming language with Andy Gordon and Simon Peyton Jones
Today, people around the globe—from teachers to small-business owners to finance executives—use Microsoft Excel to make sense of the information that occupies their respective worlds, and whether they realize it or not, in doing so, they’re taking on the role of programmer. In this episode, Senior Principal Research Manager Andy Gordon, who leads the Calc Intelligence team at Microsoft Research, and Senior Principal Researcher Simon Peyton Jones provide an inside account of the journey Excel has taken as a programming language, including the expansion of data types that has unlocked greater functionality and the release of the LAMBDA function, which makes the Excel formula language Turing-complete. They’ll talk specifically about how research has influenced Excel and vice versa, programming as a human-computer interaction challenge, and a future in which Excel is the first language for budding programmers and a tool for incorporating probabilistic reasoning into our decision-making. https://www.microsoft.com/research
119 - Defending DRAM for data safety and security in the cloud
Dynamic random-access memory – or DRAM – is the most popular form of volatile computer memory in the world but it’s particularly susceptible to Rowhammer, an adversarial attack that can cause data loss and security exploits in everything from smart phones to the cloud. Today, Dr. Stefan Saroiu, a Senior Principal Researcher in MSR’s Mobility and Networking group, explains why DRAM remains vulnerable to Rowhammer attacks today, even after several years of mitigation efforts, and then tells us how a new approach involving bespoke extensibility mechanisms for DRAM might finally hammer Rowhammer in the fight to keep data safe and secure.
118 - Accessible systems for sign language computation with Dr. Danielle Bragg
Many computer science researchers set their sights on building general AI technologies that could impact hundreds of millions – or even billions – of people. But Dr. Danielle Bragg, a senior researcher at MSR’s New England lab, has a slightly smaller and more specific population in mind: the some seventy million people worldwide who use sign languages as their primary means of communication. Today, Dr. Bragg gives us an insightful overview of the field and talks about the unique challenges and opportunities of building systems that expand access to information in line with the needs and desires of the deaf and signing community. https://www.microsoft.com/research
117 - Provably efficient reinforcement learning with Dr. Akshay Krishnamurthy
MSR’s New York City lab is home to some of the best reinforcement learning research on the planet but if you ask any of the researchers, they’ll tell you they’re very interested in getting it out of the lab and into the real world. One of those researchers is Dr. Akshay Krishnamurthy and today, he explains how his work on feedback-driven data collection and provably efficient reinforcement learning algorithms is helping to move the RL needle in the real-world direction. https://www.microsoft.com/research
116 - Harvesting randomness, HAIbrid algorithms and safe AI with Dr. Siddhartha Sen
Dr. Siddhartha Sen is a Principal Researcher in MSR’s New York City lab, and his research interests are, if not impossible, at least impossible sounding: optimal decision making, universal data structures, and verifiably safe AI. Today, he tells us how he’s using reinforcement learning and HAIbrid algorithms to tap the best of both human and machine intelligence and develop AI that’s minimally disruptive, synergistic with human solutions, and safe.
036r - A conversation with Microsoft CTO Kevin Scott
This episode originally aired in August, 2018. Kevin Scott has embraced many roles over the course of his illustrious career in technology: software developer, engineering executive, researcher, angel investor, philanthropist, and now, Chief Technology Officer of Microsoft. But perhaps no role suits him so well – or has so fundamentally shaped all the others – as his self-described role of “all-around geek.” Today, in a wide-ranging interview, Kevin shares his insights on both the history and the future of computing, talks about how his impulse to celebrate the extraordinary people “behind the tech” led to an eponymous non-profit organization and a podcast, and… reveals the superpower he got when he was in grad school.
115 - Diving into Deep InfoMax with Dr. Devon Hjelm
Dr. Devon Hjelm is a senior researcher at the Microsoft Research lab in Montreal, and today, he joins me to dive deep into his research on Deep InfoMax, a novel self-supervised learning approach to training AI models – and getting good representations – without human annotation. He also tells us how an interest in neural networks, first human and then machine, led to an inspiring career in deep learning research. https://www.microsoft.com/research
080r - All Data AI with Dr. Andrew Fitzgibbon
This episode originally aired in June, 2019 You may not know who Dr. Andrew Fitzgibbon is, but if you’ve watched a TV show or movie in the last two decades, you’ve probably seen some of his work. An expert in 3D computer vision and graphics, and head of the new All Data AI group at Microsoft Research Cambridge, Dr. Fitzgibbon was instrumental in the development of Boujou, an Emmy Award-winning 3D camera tracker that lets filmmakers place virtual props, like the floating candles in Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, into live-action footage. But that was just his warm-up act. On today’s podcast, Dr. Fitzgibbon tells us what he’s been working on since the Emmys in 2002, including body- and hand-tracking for powerhouse Microsoft technologies like Kinect for Xbox 360 and HoloLens, explains how research on dolphins helped build mathematical models for the human hand, and reminds us, once again, that the “secret sauce” to most innovation is often just good, old-fashioned hard work. https://www.microsoft.com/research
020r - Getting good VIBEs from your computer with Dr. Mary Czerwinski
This episode originally aired in April, 2018 Emotions are fundamental to human interaction, but in a world where humans are increasingly interacting with AI systems, Dr. Mary Czerwinski, Principal Researcher and Research Manager of the Visualization and Interaction for Business and Entertainment group at Microsoft Research, believes emotions may be fundamental to our interactions with machines as well. And through her team’s work in affective computing, the quest to bring Artificial Emotional Intelligence – or AEI – to our computers may be closer than we think. Today, Dr. Czerwinski tells us how a cognitive psychologist found her way into the research division of the world’s largest software company, suggests that rather than trying to be productive 24/7, we should aim for Emotional Homeostasis instead, and tells us how, if we do it right, our machines could become a sort of “emotional at-work DJ,” sensing and responding to our emotional states, and helping us to become happier and more productive at the same time.
072r - AI for Earth with Dr. Lucas Joppa
This episode originally aired in April, 2019. We hear a lot these days about “AI for good” and the efforts of many companies to harness the power of artificial intelligence to solve some of our biggest environmental challenges. It’s rare, however, that you find a company willing to bring its environmental bona fides all the way to the C Suite. Well, meet Dr. Lucas Joppa. A former environmental and computer science researcher at MSR who was tapped in 2017 to become the company’s first Chief Environmental Scientist, Dr. Joppa is now the Chief Environmental Officer at Microsoft, another first, and is responsible for managing the company’s overall environmental sustainability efforts from operations to policy to technology. Today, Dr. Joppa shares how his love for nature and the joy of discovery actually helped shape his career path, and tells us all about AI for Earth, a multi-year, multi-million dollar initiative to deploy the full scale of Microsoft’s products, policies and partnerships across four key areas of agriculture, water, biodiversity and climate, and transform the way society monitors, models, and ultimately manages Earth’s natural resources.
004r - Getting Virtual with Dr. Mar Gonzalez Franco
This episode originally aired in December, 2017 On today’s episode, neuroscientist and virtual reality researcher, Dr. Mar Gonzalez Franco, talks about her work in VR, explains how avatars can help increase our empathy and reduce our biases via role play, and addresses the misconceptions that exist between the immersive experiences of virtual reality and psychedelic drugs.
114 - Project Orleans and the distributed database future with Dr. Philip Bernstein
Forty years ago, database research was an “exotic” field and, because of its business data processing reputation, was not considered intellectually interesting in academic circles. But that didn’t deter Dr. Philip Bernstein, now a Distinguished Scientist in MSR’s Data Management, Exploration and Mining group, and a pioneer in the field. Today, Dr. Bernstein talks about his pioneering work in databases over the years and tells us all about Project Orleans, a distributed systems programming framework that makes life easier for programmers who aren’t distributed systems experts. He also talks about the future of database systems in a cloud scale world, and reveals where he finds his research sweet spot along the academic industrial spectrum. https://www.microsoft.com/research
113 - An interview with Microsoft President Brad Smith
Brad Smith is the President of Microsoft and leads a team of more than 1400 employees in 56 countries. He plays a key role in spearheading the company’s work on critical issues involving the intersection of technology and society. In his spare time, he’s also an author! We were fortunate to catch up with Brad who, late on a Friday afternoon, sat down with me in the booth to talk about his new book, Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age, and revealed the top ten tech policy issues he believes will shape our own century’s roaring 20s. He also gave us a peek inside the life of a person the New York Times has described a “de facto ambassador for the technology industry at large” – himself! https://www.microsoft.com/research
112 - Microsoft’s AI Transformation, Project Turing and smarter search with Rangan Majumder
Rangan Majumder is the Partner Group Program Manager of Microsoft’s Search and AI, and he has a simple goal: to make the world smarter and more productive. But nobody said simple was easy, so he and his team are working on better – and faster – ways to help you find the information you’re looking for, anywhere you’re looking for it. Today, Rangan talks about how three big trends have changed the way Microsoft is building – and sharing – AI stacks across product groups. He also tells us about Project Turing, an internal deep learning moonshot that aims to harness the resources of the web and bring the power of deep learning to a search box near you. https://www.microsoft.com/research
111 - Auto ML and the future of self-managing networks with Dr. Behnaz Arzani
Dr. Behnaz Arzani is a senior researcher in the Mobility and Networking group at MSR, and she feels your pain. At least, that is, if you’re a network operator trying to troubleshoot an incident in a datacenter. Her research is all about getting networks to manage themselves, so your life is as pain-free as possible. On today’s podcast, Dr. Arzani tells us why it’s so hard to identify and resolve networking problems and then explains how content-aware, or domain-customized, auto ML frameworks might help. She also tells us what she means when she says she wants to get humans out of the loop, and reveals how a competitive streak and a comment from her high school principal set her on the path to a career in high tech research. https://www.microsoft.com/research
110 - Engineering research to life with Gavin Jancke
If you want an inside look at how a research idea goes from project to prototype to product, you should hang out with Gavin Jancke for a while. He’s the General Manager of Engineering for MSR Redmond where he created – and runs – the Central Engineering Group. Over the past two decades, he’s overseen more than seven hundred software and hardware engineering projects, from internal MSR innovations to Microsoft product group partnerships. Today, Gavin takes us on a guided tour of the research engineering landscape and the engineering pipeline, recounting some of Central Engineering’s greatest hits. He also explains how the lab determines which projects get engineering resources, and reveals how one of his own projects ended up in the Museum of Modern Art. https://www.microsoft.com/research