Unused TV spectrum and drones could help make smart farms a reality
ON THE Dancing Crow farm in Washington, sunflowers and squashes soak up the rich autumn sunshine beside a row of solar panels. This bucolic smallholding provides organic vegetables to the farmers’ markets of Seattle. But it is also home to an experiment by Microsoft, a big computing firm, that it hopes will transform agriculture further afield. For the past year, the firm’s engineers have been developing a suite of technologies there to slash the cost of “precision agriculture”, which aims to use sensors and clever algorithms to deliver water, fertilisers and pesticides only to crops that actually need them.
Precision agriculture is one of the technologies that could help to feed a world whose population is forecast to hit almost 10 billion by 2050. If farmers can irrigate only when necessary, and avoid excessive pesticide use, they should be able to save money and boost their output.
But existing systems work out at $1,000 a sensor. That is too pricey for most rich-world farmers, let alone those in poor countries where productivity gains are most needed. The sensors themselves, which probe things like moisture, temperature and acidity in the soil, and which are scattered all over the farm, are fairly cheap, and can be powered with inexpensive solar panels. The cost comes in getting data from sensor to farmer. Few rural farms enjoy perfect mobile-phone coverage, and Wi-Fi networks do not have the range to cover entire fields. So most precision-agriculture systems rely on sensors that connect to custom cellular base stations, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars, or to satellites, which require pricey antennas and data plans.
In contrast, the sensors at Dancing Crow employ unoccupied slices of the UHF and VHF radio frequencies used for TV broadcasts, slotting data between channels. Many countries are experimenting with this so-called “white space”; to unlock extra bandwidth for mobile phones. In cities, tiny slices of the white-space spectrum sell for millions of dollars. But in the sparsely populated countryside, says Ranveer Chandra, a Microsoft researcher, there is unlicensed space galore.
Learn more: Precision agriculture
DuoSkin is a fabrication process that enables anyone to create customized functional devices that can be attached directly on their skin.
Using gold metal leaf, a material that is cheap, skin-friendly, and robust for everyday wear, we demonstrate three types of on-skin interfaces: sensing touch input, displaying output, and wireless communication. DuoSkin draws from the aesthetics found in metallic jewelry-like temporary tattoos to create on-skin devices which resemble jewelry. DuoSkin devices enable users to control their mobile devices, display information, and store information on their skin while serving as a statement of personal style. We believe that in the future, on-skin electronics will no longer be black-boxed and mystified; instead, they will converge towards the user friendliness, extensibility, and aesthetics of body decorations, forming a DuoSkin integrated to the extent that it has seemingly disappeared.
Learn and see more: DuoSkin
Can math and machine create a painting to rival that of an Old Master? A Microsoft and ING project certainly seems to say yes.
In conversations about artificial intelligence and the time when machines will be able to functions as well as — or better than — human beings, it’s often said that one thing computers will never be able to do is create art and music the way we do. Well, that argument just lost a bit of steam thanks to a project that’s been carried out by Microsoft and ING. Working with the Technical University of Delft and two museums in the Netherlands, the project, called “Next Rembrandt,” used algorithms and a 3D printer to create a brand-new Rembrandt painting that looks like it could easily have been delivered by Dutch Master’s own hand about 350 years ago.
Microsoft Research has revealed a new research project where they envision users would remotely attend meetings after being scanned and their presence being projected remotely onto the Hololens screens of other remote attendees.
Holoportation, as they call it, is a new type of 3D capture technology that allows high quality 3D models of people to be reconstructed, compressed, and transmitted anywhere in the world in real-time. When combined with mixed reality displays such as HoloLens, this technology allows users to see and interact with remote participants in 3D as if they are actually present in their physical space.
Microsoft Research (MSR) is the research division of Microsoft created in 1991 for developing various computer science ideas and integrating them into Microsoft products.
It currently employs Turing Award winners C.A.R. Hoare, Butler Lampson, and Charles P. Thacker, Fields Medal winner Michael Freedman, MacArthur Fellow Jim Blinn, Dijkstra Prize winner Leslie Lamport and many other highly recognized experts in computer science, physics, and mathematics, including Turing Award winner Jim Gray up until his highly publicized disappearance while sailing, and Loève Prize, Henri Poincaré Prize and Ostrowski Prize winner Oded Schramm until he fell to his death while climbing in the mountains.
The Latest Updated Research News:
Microsoft Research research articles from Innovation Toronto
- Digital images stored in DNA — think Walmart sized data center in a sugar cube – April 8, 2016
- Holoportation: Microsoft Research envisions telecommuting via Hololens – March 28, 2016
- Microsoft Plumbs Ocean’s Depths to Test Underwater Data Center – February 1, 2016
- Microsoft HoloLens: A Sensational Vision of the PC’s Future – January 22, 2015
- Extracting audio from visual information – August 8, 2014
- A new use for touchless technology in the operating theatre – June 28, 2014
- Microsoft Makes Bet Quantum Computing Is Next Breakthrough – June 24, 2014
- A Hackathon Designed By Women, For Women, To Solve The Gender Gap – May 20, 2014
- Carnegie Mellon, Microsoft Researchers Demonstrate Internal Tagging Technique for 3D-Printed Objects
- Microsoft Research paper proposes using ‘Data Furnaces’ to heat the home
- Cryptography Breakthrough Could Make Software Unhackable
- New system allows for high-accuracy, through-wall, 3-D motion tracking
- Georgia Tech Develops Inkjet-Based Circuits at Fraction of Time and Cost
- VIDEO: Power-Ups, Virtual Balls, And Quantum Engines: Welcome To The Future Of Sports
- Mapping Out How to Save Species
- Digital records could expose intimate details and personality traits of millions
- Privacy by the Numbers: A New Approach to Safeguarding Data
- Smartphones might soon develop emotional intelligence
- Software Converts Your Speech into Chinese
- Control Any Device With a Wave of Your Hand
- The Seeds That Federal Money Can Plant
- Smart Headlights See through Rain and Snow
- Microsoft creates Kinect-like system using your laptop’s built-in speaker & microphone
- Microsoft tests “smart home” waters with HomeOS
- Universal Translator Getting Closer
- Life Extension For All: Global Future Congress Announces “Avatar”
- Will Gesture Recognition Transform the User Interface?
- Wearable Cam Could Help Patients Stave Off Effects of Impaired Recall
- Microsoft HoloDesk lets users handle virtual 3D objects
- OmniTouch Turns Everything Into a Touchscreen
- Progress Hits Snag
- AnatOnMe projects patients’ insides onto their outsides
Technology companies routinely build sprawling data centers to store all the baby pictures, financial transactions, funny cat videos and email messages its users hoard.
But a new technique developed by University of Washington and Microsoft researchers could shrink the space needed to store digital data that today would fill a Walmart supercenter down to the size of a sugar cube.
In a paper presented in April at the ACM International Conference on Architectural Support for Programming Languages and Operating Systems, the team of computer scientists and electrical engineers has detailed one of the first complete systems to encode, store and retrieve digital data using DNA molecules, which can store information millions of times more compactly than current archival technologies.
Authors of the paper are UW computer science and engineering doctoral student James Bornholt, UW bioengineering doctoral student Randolph Lopez, UW associate professor of computer science and engineering Luis Ceze, UW associate professor of electrical engineering and of computer science and engineering Georg Seelig, and Microsoft researchers and UW CSE affiliate faculty Doug Carmean and .
In one experiment outlined in the paper, the team successfully encoded digital data from four image files into the nucleotide sequences of synthetic DNA snippets. More significantly, they were also able to reverse that process — retrieving the correct sequences from a larger pool of DNA and reconstructing the images without losing a single byte of information.
The team has also encoded and retrieved data that authenticates archival video files from the UW’s Voices from the Rwanda Tribunal project that contain interviews with judges, lawyers and other personnel from the Rwandan war crime tribunal.
“Life has produced this fantastic molecule called DNA that efficiently stores all kinds of information about your genes and how a living system works — it’s very, very compact and very durable,” said co-author Luis Ceze, UW associate professor of computer science and engineering.
“We’re essentially repurposing it to store digital data — pictures, videos, documents — in a manageable way for hundreds or thousands of years.”
The digital universe — all the data contained in our computer files, historic archives, movies, photo collections and the exploding volume of digital information collected by businesses and devices worldwide — is expected to hit 44 trillion gigabytes by 2020.
That’s a tenfold increase compared to 2013, and will represent enough data to fill more than six stacks of computer tablets stretching to the moon. While not all of that information needs to be saved, the world is producing data faster than the capacity to store it.
DNA molecules can store information many millions of times more densely than existing technologies for digital storage — flash drives, hard drives, magnetic and optical media.
Those systems also degrade after a few years or decades, while DNA can reliably preserve information for centuries. DNA is best suited for archival applications, rather than instances where files need to be accessed immediately.
The team from the Molecular Information Systems Lab housed in the UW Electrical Engineering Building, in close collaboration with Microsoft Research, is developing a DNA-based storage system that it expects could address the world’s needs for archival storage.
First, the researchers developed a novel approach to convert the long strings of ones and zeroes in digital data into the four basic building blocks of DNA sequences — adenine, guanine, cytosine and thymine.
“How you go from ones and zeroes to As, Gs, Cs and Ts really matters because if you use a smart approach, you can make it very dense and you don’t get a lot of errors,” said co-authorGeorg Seelig, a UW associate professor of electrical engineering and of computer science and engineering. “If you do it wrong, you get a lot of mistakes.”
The digital data is chopped into pieces and stored by synthesizing a massive number of tiny DNA molecules, which can be dehydrated or otherwise preserved for long-term storage.
The UW and Microsoft researchers are one of two teams nationwide that have also demonstrated the ability to perform “random access” — to identify and retrieve the correct sequences from this large pool of random DNA molecules, which is a task similar to reassembling one chapter of a story from a library of torn books.
To access the stored data later, the researchers also encode the equivalent of zip codes and street addresses into the DNA sequences. Using Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) techniques — commonly used in molecular biology — helps them more easily identify the zip codes they are looking for. Using DNA sequencing techniques, the researchers can then “read” the data and convert them back to a video, image or document file by using the street addresses to reorder the data.
Currently, the largest barrier to viable DNA storage is the cost and efficiency with which DNA can be synthesized (or manufactured) and sequenced (or read) on a large scale. But researchers say there’s no technical barrier to achieving those gains if the right incentives are in place.
Advances in DNA storage rely on techniques pioneered by the biotechnology industry, but also incorporate new expertise. The team’s encoding approach, for instance, borrows from error correction schemes commonly used in computer memory — which hadn’t been applied to DNA.
“This is an example where we’re borrowing something from nature — DNA — to store information. But we’re using something we know from computers — how to correct memory errors — and applying that back to nature,” said Ceze.
“This multidisciplinary approach is what makes this project exciting. We are drawing from a diverse set of disciplines to push the boundaries of what can be done with DNA. And, as a result, creating a storage system with unprecedented density and durability,” said Karin Strauss, a researcher at Microsoft and UW affiliate associate professor of computer science and engineering.