10 Microsoft research projects

A sneak peek at 10 technologies developed in Microsoft's R&D labs, ranging from laser mice to robotic receptionists

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Codename: Paris/Social Streams

Some ideas are born out of necessity. The Paris project -- the formal product name will be Political Streams when it becomes available -- provides a big picture view of political news and blog chatter. It's essentially a trend aggregator similar to Google Trends or Yahoo Buzz, except that it crawls the Web for actual content, rather than just aggregating search terms. Alex Daley, group product manager for Microsoft Live Labs, showed a demo where Sarah Palin news reports and blog posts appeared on a graph in comparison to reports on Barack Obama.

Paris/Social Streams

"This is all in real time, and we can effectively filter across various industries -- we are starting with politics," Daley says. "We can see the relationship between political reports. John McCain has had much more media interest than Barack Obama ever since the Sarah Palin announcement. We use a technique called entity extraction, a machine learning technique for classifying documents and text, such as this is a name, this is a place, or a recipe, or a review or product manual. We extract the core data and drawing relationships."

(Note: Live Labs is a seed farm at Microsoft, consisting of small five-to-eight person teams who develop innovative services and Web sites such as PhotoSynth. The small team size is intentional because Live Labs is intended to germinate ideas, some of which may not become actual products. In fact, the PhotoSynth project itself -- which is a way to see 360-degree views of a real-world location -- was not a raging success at first because Live Labs found that people would take the same photos of buildings and sites. Today, it has become more of a social networking site -- people decide together to "stitch" a scene more intentionally.)

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