Microsoft researchers offer 16 predictions for 2016

Lindsay James
Lindsay James
By Lindsay James on 07 December 2015
Microsoft researchers offer 16 predictions for 2016

16 leaders and leading thinkers within Micrososft’s Technology and Research organisation make their predictions for the coming year:

Chris Bishop, managing director of Microsoft Research, Cambridge, UK: “During 2016 we will see the emergence of new silicon architectures that are tuned to the intensive workloads of machine learning, offering a major performance boost over GPUs. By 2026 we will have ubiquitous, human-quality translation among all European languages, thereby eliminating the language barrier throughout Europe.”

Doug Burger, director of Hardware, Devices, and Experiences, Microsoft Research NExT: “The key technology breakthrough will be the successful and large-scale inclusion of specialised compute acceleration in the cloud, which will enable large gains in big data workloads, bioinformatics, high-performance computing and many other important verticals.The major advance will be a partial shift away from von Neumann computing for computation-intensive workloads, resulting in massive cost efficiencies and reduced latencies. This shift will enable many advances in deep personalisation, such as intelligent computing assistants that can know you intimately and can serve you well, great productivity enhancers at work, and saving lives with highly personalised medicine.”

Bill Buxton, principal researcher, Microsoft Research: “Fifty-seven years after the first lightpen, 53 years after the first stylus-driven graphics tablet, 27 years after the first stylus-driven slate computer and 14 years after Microsoft launched the Tablet PC, stylus-based drawing, annotation and note-taking will assume a broadly supported and appropriate place in the mosaic of how we interact with digital devices. Over the next 10 years, things will just work, they will work together seamlessly and transparently, and in so doing, there will be a significant decrease in complexity, increase in value and a liberation that enables people to focus on what is most important: realizing their human potential to the fullest.”

Lili Cheng, distinguished Engineer & General Manager, Microsoft Research NExT: “Our online conversations will increasingly be mediated by conversation assistants who will help us laugh and be more productive. This will lead us to question and blur the way we think about our computers, phones and our memories and relationships. Every kid who goes to school will learn to code and create the kinds of experiences we use every day. This means we’ll be able to better design and control how computers impact our lives.”

Kate Crawford, principal researcher, Microsoft Research: “The key breakthrough will be that every data science program will have a data ethics curriculum, giving greater understanding the human implications of large-scale data collection and experimentation (and ideally producing greater fairness and protection from forms of data discrimination).

Li Deng, partner research manager, Microsoft Research NExT: “There will be continued rapid progress in natural language processing based on deep learning methods and state-of-the-art machine translation performance may be set by attention-based sequence learning techniques based on deep learning. Deep learning will advance to match or exceed human-level AI competence in several major areas of speech and vision, and possibly in some areas of cognitive functions as well. And Artificial Intelligence technologies will be used pervasively by ordinary people in their daily lives.”

Jasmin Fisher, senior researcher, Microsoft Research Cambridge, UK:  “One of the main advances that we’ll see in health and well-being in 2016 will be the usage of innovative interdisciplinary technologies designed to extend and improve the lives of patients with complicated diseases. Ten years from now, cancer will be a solved problem thanks to interdisciplinary, ground-breaking approaches that will enable researchers and clinicians to compute driver mechanisms of cancer, as well as to understand, detect, diagnose and treat patients at an individual level. I believe executable biology will play a key role in tackling this enormous challenge.”

Hsiao-Wuen Hon, corporate vice president, Microsoft Research Asia, and Microsoft’s Asia-Pacific R&D Group: “The fusion of atoms and bits, as envisioned with HoloLens, will become commonplace so that people can have digitally augmented experiences in education, shopping, traveling and interactions with people and things.”

Eric Horvitz, technical fellow and managing director, Microsoft Research Redmond Lab: “A visible advance in computational intelligence will be the advent of fluid, multi-step conversational dialog with machines – which will be noticeably more natural and competent than the speech interactions we’ve have had with computers and smartphones to date.While advances in AI will have profound influences in such areas as transportation, healthcare and personal empowerment, I believe that the most important uses of AI will be in the sciences, where intelligent systems will supercharge scientific discovery and enable major scientific breakthroughs in such areas as energy, biology and medicine.”

Lucas Joppa, conservation scientist, Microsoft Research: “Cheap, long range, low-power sensors and radios will enable an exponential acceleration of environmental monitoring and create the foundations for unparalleled access to information about the planet. By 2026 computing will be ubiquitous in natural environments, providing a digital dashboard on the state of nature that allows us to continuously monitor the pulse of life on earth.”

Brian LaMacchia, director, Security & Cryptography, Microsoft Research: “The key cryptographic technology advance in 2016 will be the demonstration of an end-to-end encrypted TLS connection using quantum-resistant public-key algorithms for both key exchange (for confidentiality) and digital signatures (for authentication). The coming advent of quantum computers of reasonable size over the next 15 years will necessitate the migration of all our existing public-key cryptosystems to new quantum-resistant algorithms, and a quantum-resistant TLS (used for every https:// secure Web connection) is the first step. Hopefully by 2026 we will have deployed a new quantum-resistant public-key cryptosystem in all of our in-use security protocols and will be well on the way to deprecating a few remaining quantum-vulnerable cryptosystems. Ideally, if we do it properly, the migration will make all of our communications secure against attacks using quantum computers but otherwise have no impact on a person’s daily computing experience.”

Preston McAfee, chief economist, Microsoft: “Economists are struggling to understand why the current recovery involves low-productivity increases, in comparison to past recoveries, and whether low productivity is a new normal. I expect this conundrum will be answered in 2016, and the answer could have important implications for government policies to boost growth. Of course, it may turn out that the problem is measurement error, and that we are growing normally. Over the next 10 years, the major breakthrough of economics will be in applications of market design, which improves the efficiency of markets using a combination of game theory, economics and algorithm design. We’ve already seen fruitful application in search auctions, spectrum auctions, kidney exchange and school assignment.”

Sriram Rajamani, assistant managing director, Microsoft Research India: “We will see the start of a new generation of systems solutions that guarantee security even if the operating system or other infrastructure gets compromised by hackers. The cat-and-mouse game between hackers and system vendors will continue. The stakes will be raised high enough that security and privacy will become a differentiator with which device and cloud platforms will be sold. This will fuel major advances in all layers of the system stack ranging from (1) application layer in terms of machine learning techniques which preserve privacy and fairness, (2) system architectures that guarantee isolation of user data and detect intrusions and compromises using advanced machine learning, and (3) new hardware features and new cryptography, which enable such system architectures.”

Krysta Svore, senior researcher, Microsoft Research NExT: “The confirmation and demonstration of a topological qubit will be a key technology breakthrough for quantum computing in 2016. In 2026, I anticipate that we’ll be able to connect to a quantum computer through the cloud to seek solutions to problems that we cannot solve with today’s classical computers, in particular the simulation of physical systems for chemistry and materials science. Imagine being able to more efficiently produce artificial fertiliser or extract waste carbon from the air.”

Chandu Thekkath, managing director, Microsoft Research India: “Low-cost access technologies like TV white spaces and affordable mobile devices will make the Internet more widespread in India. Looking forward 10 years to 2026, every Indian will have a mobile device and network bandwidth in abundance and will experience the mobility and access they provide in ways that beggars our imagination today.”

Jeannette Wing, corporate vice president, Microsoft Research: “László Babai will publish his proof that graph isomorphism will go from nearly-exponential to nearly-polynomial time, invigorating research in algorithms and complexity theory. And we will see more sensors and devices for monitoring metabolic state so individuals can track their health and wellbeing beyond heart rate.”

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