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An interesting project in this group is the 'Robust Location Search Engine', inspired by the scenario in India. Anandan explains that usually searching for location queries requires inputs in a specific format. Unfortunately, in India, we don't have US-style addresses; we have details like: 'near the police station', 'adjacent to Ganesha temple', etc. The problem is that if you give such queries to current map services, they are unable to find a location. Thus, MSR India decided to develop a new address search engine to accept terms like those above, based on intersecting locations, and independent of any address format, and even robust to spelling errors. Having already demonstrated it, the project team is working with the Windows Live team to incorporate it in their product suite.
- Mobility, networks and systems: This group conducts research in areas such as Internet-scale systems, distributed systems, network protocols, wireless networking, mobile computing and sensor systems, seeking to advance the state-of-the-art in these areas through measurement, design and prototyping of real-world and experimental networked systems.Recently, this group did a small project called Combine, demonstrating how a group of friends with cell phones can download a huge media file by automatically pairing with other phones, getting all the phones to share the download (split into different chunks), and then re-build and share the download by combining the bits together over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Anandan says that they realised that this was something that will become a trend - a collaborative download mechanism to pool together WWAN (wireless wide area network) links, using high-speed local wireless links as the glue. Their work focuses on a number of challenges, including incentives for collaboration, fast and energy-efficient collaboration group formation, protocol mechanisms to enable deployment with little or no modification to the existing Internet infrastructure, and security and privacy.
- Multilingual systems: This focuses on developing true natural-language-neutral approaches in all aspects of linguistic computing, and on fostering and participating in a healthy research ecosystem in Indian languages computational linguistics. An interesting project is Linguistic Tools in Indian Languages, aimed at developing basic tools such as morphological analysers, parts-of-speech taggers, parsers, named-entity recognisers, etc, in Indian languages.
- Rigorous software engineering: The group studies software engineering issues in developing large-scale software systems, to come up with new tools, languages, and methodologies that dramatically increase the productivity of software development. The focus is on code understanding, configuration tools and design tools.
- Technology for emerging markets: This group, led by Kentaro Toyama, assistant managing director, MSR India, combines technical and social science research to address the needs of the people of emerging economies. It seeks to address both those who are increasingly consuming more technology services and products, and those for whom computing technology remains out of reach. Anandan states that the aim is to explore different models of technology innovations to work out the best options to make ICT useful in the context of socio-economic development.
Two very interesting projects undertaken by the group include:
Text-free user interfaces: These are design guidelines for computer-human interfaces that allow any non-literate person, on first contact with a PC, to immediately realise useful interaction with minimal or no assistance. Anandan informs us, "Rigorous user evaluations show that text-free designs are strongly preferred over standard text-based interfaces; first-time, non-literate users are, in fact, able to navigate through text-free UIs meaningfully."
Split-screen UIs for small businesses: Often, in rural areas, due to economic constraints, there are fewer computers than potential users. To try to solve that problem for schools, MSR India had worked earlier on MultiPoint, which enables multiple children to use a computer simultaneously, with each child having his or her own mouse and on-screen cursor. A similar innovation for small businesses that do not have funds for an elaborate IT infrastructure, the Split-screen UI allows users to plug in a second mouse and keyboard, and split the screen into two sections, each running a separate Windows session - allowing two users to use one PC simultaneously and independently. This may not work for all applications, but can work well for data entry and lookup, simple document processing and browsing.