Microsoft TechVista

October 2nd, 2008

Microsoft Research (MSR) India conducted TechVista yesterday, a symposium by MSR to showcase some of the hottest research that’s been happening. The talks were interesting and so were the posters presented by various students from top notch colleges, some of whose research is sponsored by Microsoft.

After the usual keynote, the real talk began by 10.45 AM. The talk was about the “Future of Computing” by Dr. John Hopcroft. It was a very insightful talk with details about ‘the cloud’ that I could relate to; and also about information storing and retrieval in digital form. The next talk was by Dr. Richard Szeliski about “Weaving the World’s Photos”. This talk was more about Photosynth and the technology and algorithms that go behind it. The talk was simply awesome; especially the place when they mentioned about the SIFT and RANSAC algorithms. SIFT determines similar points in 2 photos taken from different angles while RANSAC is able to stitch those points together and form a 3D model of the image. Considering the fact there are 1000s of photos online for a popular place (E.g. Taj Mahal), with photos taken from different angles, the SIFT and RANSAC algorithms brings about the 3D model of the place. Then these points are optimized and the resulting images are stitched together. When pictures are more detailed and where users have tagged those details, these pictures are used when users zoom in and zoom out of the 3D model. It also removes all the “noise” from the photographs and gives an almost seamless 3D experience.

The next talk I attended was by Dr. Shafi Goldwasser about program obfuscation and one-time programs. I could related to this talk because of my very recent experiment :D and paid full attention to this talk. I was smiling when one of her slides contained the last paragraph of this blog post from YUI blog. Many points in her slide were eye-opening such as ROKs and the slides that said where obfuscation fails.

It was lunch now. Somehow, most of these conferences mangle up lunch so badly that we want to give out a blood curdling yell. As soon as the morning session talks were over, myself and a few guys walked over to the Professors and were asking them a few doubts. By the time we went for lunch, most of the good dishes were over. So were the desserts :(

The talk immediately after lunch was some marketing blah blah about MSR that was putting me to sound sleep. I woke up and went to the poster presentations to check out what the Ph.D students had done. Some of the posters were really cool! I liked the ones on “Understanding the dynamics behind evolution of stable peer-to-peer networks” by Bivas Mitra from IIT-KGP, “Secure Distributed Computation and Communication” by Arpita and Ashish from IITM and PULRP by Deepthi and Kannan from IITB. It was about an hour by the time I finished looking through the posters. With my sleep vanished, I headed to main hall again to check out the next talk.

This talk was about “Computational Camers” by Dr. Shree K Nayar. It was just awesome! When I was college, I did a paper on Digital Image Processing and almost cried because of the complex equations :-) All of those were coming back in my head when this talk was going on. May be if I had known earlier, I would have applied for MSR as soon as I had passed out.

With this talk getting over, one of my friends who was a finalist of my batch’s MSAPP had come to the venue. Just as myself, Dhaval and Subhamoy were getting intro’d to him, we delved deep into quantum and relative physics, with a bit of astronomy thrown in. That twisted my brain in some crazy ways. Our discussion happened for more than 2 hours and I learnt a lot more from this discussion than from the ones that were happening inside at this time.

Oh! while I was talking to Subhamoy, he casually mentioned this story. His mobile had fallen in water & when he switched it on, it got short circuited. So, he removed the panels, took the mobile circuit to this lab, found the short circuits and resoldered everything again in their proper places. He is still using that same phone. THAT WAS AWESOME!

All-in-all, it was a day spent very well :D I enjoyed every moment to the core.

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