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Icelandic delicacy day at UW CSE

IMG_7242Inspired by the global nature of the Olympic games, the UW CSE Systems Group’s Icelandic Ph.D. students treated us to a lunch of treats from their homeland: fermented shark, smoked and salted foal meat, sheep’s head cheese, liver sausage, blood pudding, flat bread with smoked lamb and butter, sheep pate on rye bread, …

Michael Phelps may have won twenty two gold medals, but we bet he wouldn’t have been able to work his way through this stuff …

August 11, 2016

UW Interactive Data Lab’s Vega-Lite earns Best Paper at InfoVis 2016

Vega-Lite-VisualizationsResearchers in the UW Interactive Data Lab led by UW CSE professor Jeffrey Heer have captured the Best Paper Award at InfoVis 2016 for their paper presenting Vega-Lite, a new high-level grammar for rapid and concise specification of interactive data visualizations.

Although interaction is at the heart of effective data visualization, existing systems for designing interactive visualizations are either complex or overly limiting—particularly when it comes to customization. Enter Vega-Lite, which combines a traditional grammar of graphics—including visual encoding rules and a composition algebra for layered and multi-view displays—with a novel interaction grammar to bring the advantages of high-level specification to interactive visualization.

The research team, which includes Stanford Ph.D. student Arvind Satyanarayan and UW CSE Ph.D. students Dominik Moritz and Kanit Wongsuphasawat, demonstrated the software’s effectiveness in conjunction with common visualization techniques, such as panning, zooming and linked selection, as well as customized interaction methods. Using Vega-Lite, analysts will be able to produce and modify interactive graphics with the same ease as they now construct static plots.

From the award citation:

“Vega-Lite is a high-level visualization grammar that integrates an algebra for interaction techniques with operations on views. An important goal of this work is to define a high-level language in which to specify sophisticated interactive visualizations that can be generated automatically. High-level languages like these may help non-programmers to create interactive visualizations and ease them into specifying visualizations in a programmatic way.”

The team will present Vega-Lite at InfoVis, which is part of the big IEEE VIS 2016 conference, in Baltimore, Maryland in October.

Learn more about Vega-Lite here, and read the research paper here.

Way to go, team!

August 11, 2016

MIT Technology Review has the dirt on UW CSE’s Maya Cakmak and her housecleaning robots

Maya CakmakUW CSE professor Maya Cakmak and her efforts to train robots to perform everyday tasks are the subject of a recent MIT Technology Review article that posed the question, “What will it take to get a robot to clean your home so you don’t have to do it?”

As it turns out, we have a ways to go before you will be able to trade your Roomba for a Rosie.

Cakmak specializes in programming by demonstration, in which a robot is trained to perform a task by watching and imitating a human’s performance of the same task. The goal is to enable the robot to generalize what it learns through the demonstration—such as a particular cleaning technique—so that it can apply that technique using different tools for different situations. But as Cakmak notes, “Cleaning is different from other tasks we’ve thought about in robotics, which [have] typically involved manipulating objects, or moving them place to place.” For example, a robot would have to learn to identify which tool is the right one for a job, and the correct speed and pressure to apply while using it.

These and other challenges Cakmak identified—such as a lack of machine-friendly design when it comes to many current dwellings—will have to be addressed before autonomous household robots move out of the realm of science fiction and into our homes.

Plus, we need robots with waterproof appendages because vacuuming is a pleasure compared to cleaning the toilet.

Check out the full article here. Watch a video demonstration here.

August 10, 2016

GeekWire reports UW CSE machine learning spinoff Turi acquired by Apple

Carlos GuestrinGeekWire is reporting that Turi, the spin-off founded by Carlos Guestrin, Amazon Professor of Machine Learning in UW CSE, has been acquired by Apple.

According to GeekWire’s breaking news post:

“Machine learning and artificial intelligence startup Turi has been acquired by Apple in a deal characterized as a blockbuster exit for the Seattle-based company, formerly known as Dato and GraphLab, GeekWire has learned.

“The acquisition reflects a larger push by Apple into artificial intelligence and machine learning. It also promises to further increase the Cupertino, Calif.-based company’s presence in the Seattle region, where Apple has been building an engineering outpost for the past two years …

“Sources close to the deal pegged the purchase price at around $200 million …”

On July 21 we reported on the IPO of UW CSE spin-off Impinj, whose current market cap is roughly $350 million. While representatives of Apple and Turi are keeping mum, if we take today’s GeekWire report at face value, this marks two great exits of UW CSE companies – both backed by our friends at Madrona Venture Group – in two weeks!

Read the full article here.

More from GeekWire: “Why Apple bought Turi.”

August 5, 2016

UW CSE’s Magda Balazinska and Luna Dong to be recognized at VLDB 2016

Luna Dong

Luna Dong

Magda Balazinska

Magda Balazinska

Professor Magda Balazinska  and Ph.D. alum Luna Dong of UW CSE’s Database group will be honored for their research contributions to the field of data management at the Very Large Data Bases (VLDB 2016) conference next month. Balazinska receives the inaugural VLDB Women in Database Research Award for her “inspirational research record on scalable distributed data systems.” Dong, who earned her Ph.D. in 2007 working with former UW CSE professor and Database group founder Alon Halevy, receives the VLDB Early Career Research Contribution Award for “advancing the state of the art of knowledge fusion.”

Balazinska holds the Jean-Loup Baer Career Development Professorship in UW CSE and is a Senior Data Science Fellow at the UW’s eScience Institute. Her research focuses on big data management and scientific data management in cloud computing environments. In addition to co-leading the Database group, she co-founded the UW’s AstroDB group—a collaboration between UW CSE, the eScience Institute, and the Astronomy department—to develop novel tools and techniques for processing, storing and querying the massive volumes of data being generated by telescopes and simulations. Her projects extend beyond astronomy and include, among others, collaborations with neuroscientists and biologists. Balazinska is one of the leaders of the Myria project, which develops and operates a fast, flexible cloud-based service for big data management and analytics. A demonstration version of the service is available through the project website. Prior to her work on Myria, she led the Nuage project, which enabled scientists to store and analyze large volumes of data using the Hadoop system. She also worked on the SciDB multidimensional parallel array engine.

Balazinska has earned numerous honors for her work, including an NSF CAREER Award, a Microsoft Research New Faculty Fellowship, a Google Research Award, an HP Labs Research Innovation Award, and multiple best paper awards. In addition to her research and teaching, Balazinska serves as director of the IGERT Ph.D. program in Big Data and Data Science and co-founded the Northwest Database Society (NWDB), which brings together researchers and practitioners in the database and data management fields from across the Pacific Northwest.

Dong’s research interests span knowledge management, data integration and quality, and applied machine learning. After graduating from UW CSE, she spent five years at AT&T Research, where she helped build the company’s Data Fusion research area and systems for gauging the trustworthiness of data sources and the best sources for data integration.

In 2013, Dong became a senior research scientist at Google, where she initiated the Knowledge Fusion research area and contributed to the company’s Knowledge Vault project, which automatically fuses the knowledge collected from billions of web pages into a probabilistic knowledge base. Dong also invented Knowledge-Based Trust, a system that gauges the trustworthiness of web sources and aids the verification of facts—referred to as the “Google Truth Machine” in a Washington Post article about the project. Recently, Dong joined Amazon as a principal scientist, initiating and leading the effort to build Amazon Product Graph.

VLDB is one of the two top database conferences in the world (the other one being SIGMOD). VLDB 2016 will be held September 5-9 in New Delhi, India.

Congratulations, Magda and Luna!

August 4, 2016

In His Own Words: Gary Kildall

Kildall_1988_GK_ONeal-213x300UW CSE Ph.D. alumnus Gary Kildall was a pioneer of personal computer software. He wrote programming language tools including assemblers (Intel 4004), interpreters (BASIC), and compilers (PL/M). He created a widely-used disk operating system (CP/M). He and his wife, Dorothy McEwen, started a successful company called Digital Research to develop and market CP/M, which for years was the dominant operating system for personal microcomputers.

Gary died in 1994, at the young age of 52. In 1993, the year before his death, he wrote a draft of a memoir titled “Computer Connections: People, Places, and Events in the Evolution of the Personal Computer Industry.” Gary’s children, Scott and Kristin, have made the first portion of that memoir, along with their introduction to it and previously unpublished family photos, available via the Computer History Museum.

Scott and Kristin write: “Gary viewed computers as learning tools rather than profit engines. His career choices reflect a different definition of success, where innovation means sharing ideas, letting passion drive your work and making source code available for others to build upon. His work ethic during the 1970s resembles that of the open-source community today.”

Read the preamble and the remarkable manuscript here.

UW CSE is proud to count Gary as one of our most distinguished alumni: Ph.D. number 7 from our department, awarded in 1972, advised by Hellmut Golde.

August 3, 2016

UW CSE’s Tom Anderson, Albert Greenberg elected to the Washington State Academy of Sciences

GreenbergTom AndersonUW CSE professor and alum Tom Anderson (Ph.D., ’91) and alum Albert Greenberg (Ph.D., ’83) have been elected to the Washington State Academy of Sciences. Anderson and Greenberg, who were elected to the National Academy of Engineering earlier this year, are among two dozen new WSAS members selected based on “their outstanding record of scientific achievement and willingness to work on behalf of the academy in bringing the best available science to bear on issues within the state of Washington.”

The WSAS was created by the Washington State Legislature in 2005 to harness the expertise of leading scientists and engineers to provide authoritative and objective scientific and technical analysis to public policy-makers and to increase the role and visibility of science in the state, modeled after the National Academies’ National Research Council. Anderson and Greenberg join UW CSE professors Ed Lazowska and Hank Levy, adjunct professors David Baker, Tom Daniel and Joseph Felsenstein, and affiliate faculty members Phil Bernstein, Eric Horvitz, and Burton Smith of Microsoft Research, Lee Hood of the Institute for Systems Biology, Radia Perlman of EMC, and Rick Szeliski of Facebook as members. They will be formally inducted at the WSAS annual meeting in September.

Read our previous blog post on Anderson and Greenberg here.

Congratulations, again, to Tom and Albert on their tremendous achievements!

August 1, 2016

UW CSE spinoff Impinj off to a roaring start with IPO

Impinj logoImpinj, the Seattle-based RFID company founded by UW CSE professor Chris Diorio and his Caltech Ph.D. advisor Carver Mead, made its debut on Wall Street today to great fanfare. Impinj is the first Seattle technology company to go public in 2016.

From the GeekWire article:


The Impinj team rang the closing bell at NASDAQ today to celebrate their IPO

“Wall Street likes what they see in Impinj, a 16-year-old Seattle-based maker of Radio Frequency Identification technology that today went public on Nasdaq at $14 per share. That was the upper end of the range for the company, which makes RFID chips that allow retailers to track inventory or manufacturers to track parts….

“Impinj, which is trading under the ticker PI, is doing well in its debut. The stock shot up more than 20 percent, and it is now trading around $17.17.” (Impinj closed the day at $17.97, up 28% from the $14.00 IPO price.)

Congratulations to Chris, Carver and the entire Impinj team! And also to the investors who have stood by the company – particularly our good friends at Madrona Venture Group, which has backed more than a dozen UW CSE startups.

Read all about it on GeekWire hereTechCrunch here, and Xconomy here.

July 21, 2016

UW CSE’s Dreambit imaging software lets people change their appearance virtually

Dreambit results for Ira Kemelmacher-Shlizerman

Ira Kemelmacher-Shlizerman explores different looks using Dreambit.

Have you ever wondered what you would look like with a different hairstyle or if you were born in a different historical period? Now you can find out thanks to new imaging software created by UW CSE professor Ira Kemelmacher-Shlizerman.

Dreambit enables an individual to upload his/her photo and generate personalized search results in which the person’s face is synthesized with images matching the search terms.

Dreambit identifies a set of images that satisfy the search parameters, such as “curly hair,” and employs algorithms to blend the input photo with search results that match the person’s pose, expression, and face shape. The software draws from previously published work in 3-D reconstruction, age progression, and other research that makes use of the vast array of photos available online.

The ability to explore different looks is not all fun and games—the software has a variety of practical applications, including law enforcement and the film industry.

From the UW News release:

“‘It’s hard to recognize someone by just looking at a face, because we as humans are so biased towards hairstyles and hair colors,’ said Kemelmacher-Shlizerman. ‘With missing children, people often dye their hair or change the style so age-progressing just their face isn’t enough. This is a first step in trying to imagine how a missing person’s appearance might change over time.’

“Another potential application is to envision how a certain actor or actress might appear in a role. For example, the system can marry internet photographs of the actress Cate Blanchett and Bob Dylan to predict how she would appear playing the Dylan role in the movie ‘I’m Not There.'”

Kemelmacher-Shlizerman will present Dreambit at the SIGGRAPH 2016 conference next week in Anaheim, California. General release to the public is planned for later this year.

Read the UW News release here, view a video demonstration here, and read the research paper here. Check out the Dreambit website here and coverage of the project by TechCrunchGeekWire, Digital TrendsEngadget, and the Daily Mail. Watch the KOMO 4 News segment here.

July 21, 2016

Microsoft Research recognizes 3 UW CSE faculty, 2 Ph.D. alums with Outstanding Collaborator Awards

Ed Lazowska at the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit

Ed Lazowska is recognized with the Outstanding Collaborator Award

Microsoft Research has recognized UW CSE professor Ed Lazowska, CSE and Electrical Engineering professors Shwetak Patel and Georg Seelig, and CSE Ph.D. alums Todd Millstein and Tao Xie, with Outstanding Collaborator Awards. The five are among 32 academics from around the world who are being honored for their contributions to the direction, visibility and value of Microsoft’s research and products.

Rick Rashid—the founder and former head of Microsoft Research, and now Chief Technology Officer for the company’s Applications and Services Group—announced the recipients at the 2016 Faculty Summit taking place in Redmond this week.

MSR recognized Lazowska as “one of the top leaders in the computer science research community.” The organization cited his 20 years of service on the Redmond lab’s Technical Advisory Board, during which he has provided guidance on the direction and impact of the organization’s research and on the development of collaborative initiatives. MSR also noted Lazowska’s long-standing work with government and academic organizations to advance the field of computing, including his leadership on the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee, the NSF Computing and Information Science and Engineering Advisory Committee, the Computing Research Association, and the Computing Community Consortium.

Georg Seelig

Georg Seelig

Shwetak Patel

Shwetak Patel

Patel – “a prolific MSR collaborator” – was recognized for his work on novel interaction techniques and low-power sensing and his leadership on the Global Innovation Exchange (GIX), a partnership between the UW, China’s Tsinghua University, and Microsoft. In addition to his many research contributions, the organization called attention to Patel’s teaching and mentoring, noting that he has sent more than 10 students from his UbiComp Lab to MSR as interns—including four who have earned MSR Ph.D. Fellowships. A number of Patel’s students have taken full-time roles at Microsoft following graduation.

For the past five years, Seelig has collaborated with MSR Cambridge on programming information processing at the nanoscale using DNA. This work integrated software design tools from MSR with wet lab experiments designed and performed at the UW—leading to improvements in both and producing a DNA-based technology for implementing the computational core of complex molecular networks. Seelig is also a member of the UW’s Molecular Information Systems Lab, a recent collaboration with MSR Redmond aimed at developing the next generation of data storage that recently broke the record for the amount of digital data stored in strands of DNA.


Tao Xie

Todd Millstein

Todd Millstein

Millstein earned his Ph.D. from UW CSE in 2003 working with Craig Chambers as part of UW CSE’s Cecil group. Now a professor of computer science at UCLA, Millstein was recognized by MSR for a decade of “broad and deep collaborations” focused on network verification, memory models, and predicate abstractions. Millstein’s partnership with MSR began as an intern while he was a graduate student at UW CSE, and he has continued to work with various MSR researchers in networking and programming languages since joining the UCLA faculty more than a decade ago.

Xie, now an associate professor in computer science and Willett Faculty Scholar at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, first engaged with Microsoft Research 15 years ago while pursuing his Ph.D. at UW working with David Notkin. His citation notes: “As a visiting researcher in the Research in Software Engineering (RiSE) group, he personally contributed a core search algorithm for the automated test generation feature IntelliTest, which shipped as part of Visual Studio 2015 Enterprise Edition. Even more influential were his frequent visits to Microsoft Research in Redmond and China, which spawned dozens of collaborative projects.”

This is a tremendous honor for the chosen individuals as well as for UW CSE as a whole. Visit the MSR Outstanding Collaborator Awards website here, and learn more about the honorees here.

Congratulations to all for their outstanding work, and thanks to Microsoft Research for being a terrific friend and collaborator!

July 13, 2016

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