Microsoft Research promises Machine Learning will be big in Windows Phone

Peter Lee 2010TechnologyReview spoke to Microsoft’s new head of research, Peter Lee, asking how they will help elevate Windows Phone to above its current niche status.

Lee was previously head of the computer science department at Carnegie Mellon University and currently managed more than 1,100 Microsoft researchers across 13 facilities.

He said Microsoft was committed to using the best best concepts in hardware, devices, and sensors in Windows Phones, and they wanted to give the user a more natural interaction, with a phone that is aware of what the user is doing. They were currently looking at new classes of sensors and even wearable computing.

“We have committed to bringing highly personalized machine learning technology into the phone,” he said.

Lee said Machine Learning was Microsoft Research’s number one investment.

“We think we’re well within reach of solving speech recognition, making a big dent in translation, and devices that see and hear with capabilities approaching human ones,” he said. “So, for example, a camera could understand what is being said and what it is looking at. A photo could include this extra information. Or [a phone] could look at a plate of food and understand what it is, to help your diet and monitor your health,” he continued.

Lee said while he did not yet know how Nokia’s own research team will integrate with Microsoft, they are at present still involved in “exciting collaborations” with Nokia’s team, and that these will keep going, no matter what happens.

He noted the “converged OS for Windows Phone 8”  was a skunkworks project that originally was a joint effort led by MSR, joined by a team in the phone group, and ended by saying “The smartphone battle isn’t over yet.”

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