From AI and data science to cryptography: Microsoft researchers offer 16 predictions for ’16

Microsoft News Center Staff

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Last month, Microsoft released “Future Visions,” an anthology of short stories written by some of today’s top science fiction writers based in part on the writers’ access to Microsoft researchers and their labs.  The eBook is available for free from Amazon and other sites.

Today, we offer an anthology of a different sort.  This is a collection of predictions from 16 leaders and leading thinkers within our Technology and Research organization.

As we turn the page on a year when we’ve entered what Microsoft Research NExT corporate vice president Peter Lee calls “a new Golden Age of technological advancement,” we thought it would be instructive to get a sense for what lies ahead, not only next year, but 10 years from now as well.

Microsoft Research has more than 1,000 scientists and engineers who work across multiple disciplines in research labs around the world, so this list isn’t exhaustive, but hopefully you find it insightful.

2016 represents a milestone of sorts for Microsoft’s research arm. It marks the 25th year since its founding in 1991 by Nathan Myhrvold, who argued in a 21-page document sent to Bill Gates that Microsoft needed “to invest in our future by doing more work in research and technology creation.”

That investment has paid significant dividends, for Microsoft, the industry and society.  Perhaps at a time when as MIT President Rafael Reif has argued “we leave a lot of innovation ketchup in the bottle,” the company’s research investment is more important than ever before.

What innovation will emerge from the ketchup bottle in 2016?

Below are 16 perspectives for ’16.

Chris_Bishop_2015Chris Bishop

Managing Director of Microsoft Research, Cambridge, UK
Microsoft Distinguished Scientist

What will be the key technology breakthrough or advance in 2016?
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.

Looking forward 10 years to 2026, what will be the major technological advance within Europe and what impact will it have on a person’s computing experience?
By 2026 we will have ubiquitous, human-quality translation among all European languages, thereby eliminating the language barrier throughout Europe.

How would you complete this sentence: 2016 will be the year that…
We see interesting new applications of depth camera technology on mobile phones.

doug-burger_2013Doug Burger

Director of Hardware, Devices, and Experiences, Microsoft Research NExT
@dcburger

What will be the key technology breakthrough or advance in computing in 2016?
The key technology breakthrough will be the successful and large-scale inclusion of specialized compute acceleration in the cloud, which will enable large gains in big data workloads, bioinformatics, high-performance computing and many other important verticals.

Looking forward 10 years to 2026, what will be the major technological advance in computing and what impact will it have on a person’s computing experience?
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 personalization, 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 personalized medicine.

How would you complete this sentence: 2016 will be the year that…
Reconfigurable computing (i.e. FPGAs) go mainstream in the datacenter, as a first-class compute accelerator.

Bill-Buxton-235-1Bill Buxton

Principal Researcher, Microsoft Research
@wasbuxton

What will be the key technology breakthrough or advance in human-computer interaction in 2016?
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.

Looking forward 10 years to 2026, what will be the major technological advance in human-computer interaction and what impact will it have on a person’s computing experience?
Based on history, my inner skeptic is tempted just to add 10 years to all of the timings, and repeat my prediction for 2016. My inner optimist, however, believes that three related changes will occur 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.

How would you complete this sentence: 2016 will be the year that…
The age of digital baubles, do-dads and planned obsolescence will begin to fade, and the focus of industry and consumers will shift from technology, per se, to enhanced human experience, values and potential.

Lili-ChengLili Cheng

Distinguished Engineer & General Manager, Microsoft Research NExT
@lilich

What will be the key technology breakthrough or advance in 2016?
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.

Looking forward 10 years to 2026, what will be the major technological advance and what impact will it have on a person’s computing experience?
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.

How would you complete this sentence: 2016 will be the year that…
More kids’ first jobs will be virtual rather than in a physical place. Over time, this will cause us to rethink the way we work, and the way we design our physical cities, neighborhoods and local communities.

KCrawford.Kate Crawford

Principal Researcher, Microsoft Research
@katecrawford

What will be the key data science technology breakthrough or advance in 2016?
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).

Looking forward 10 years to 2026, what will be the major data science advance and what impact will it have on a person’s computing experience?
AI agents like XiaoIce will feel so real and play such a central, trusted role in our lives that we will require them to have the same ethical and legal relationships that we have with doctors, lawyers and therapists.

How would you complete this sentence: 2016 will be the year that…
We begin to build due process protections inside big data systems that influence health care, housing and employment decisions.

li-deng_2014Li Deng

Partner Research Manager, Microsoft Research NExT

What will be the key deep learning breakthrough or advance in 2016?
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.

Looking forward 10 years to 2026, what will be the major deep learning advance and what impact will it have on a person’s computing experience?
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.

How would you complete this sentence: 2016 will be the year that…
Deep learning is making inroads into business applications including predictive analytics, which will excite new interest in deep learning technology beyond its commonly accepted successes in speech, image and natural language processing.

Jasmin-FisherJasmin Fisher

Senior Researcher, Microsoft Research Cambridge, UK

What will be the key breakthrough or advance in health and well-being in 2016?
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.

Looking forward 10 years to 2026, what will be the major executable biology advance and what impact will it have on a person’s computing experience?
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.

How would you complete this sentence: 2016 will be the year that…
Cloud platform technologies will start realising their true potential to transform and empower patients’ lives.

HonHsiao-Wuen Hon

Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Research Asia, and Microsoft’s Asia-Pacific R&D Group

What will be the key technology breakthrough or advance within China in 2016?
Significant adoption of artificial intelligence plus optional human-in-the-loop for personal assistant services, providing the following advantages: wide adoption of messaging platforms, inexpensive cost of labor, and availability of goods and services electronically.

Looking forward 10 years to 2026, what will be the major technological advance within China and what impact will it have on a Chinese citizen’s computing experience?
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.

How would you complete this sentence: 2016 will be the year that…
Video distribution on the Web will overtake TV broadcast. More people in China will watch the Olympics through the Web than through TV. Video analytics technology as offered by Project Oxford will facilitate more intelligent video processing in the cloud.

EricHorvitz1_2014cEric Horvitz

Technical Fellow & Managing Director, Microsoft Research Redmond Lab
@erichorvitz

What will be the key AI breakthrough or advance in 2016?
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.

Looking forward 10 years to 2026, what will be the major AI advance and what impact will it have on a person’s computing experience?
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.

How would you complete this sentence: 2016 will be the year that…
Personal assistants become more genuinely helpful by understanding such important things in peoples’ lives as the tasks they work on and the commitments they make to others.

IMG_0721-2_USE_SmallLucas Joppa

Conservation Scientist, Microsoft Research
@lucasjoppa

What will be the key conservation science breakthrough or advance in 2016?
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.

Looking forward 10 years to 2026, what will be the major conservation science advance and what impact will it have on a person’s computing experience?
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.

How would you complete this sentence: 2016 will be the year that…
The world realizes the potential for technology to help avert the 6th mass extinction and transform the way we monitor, model and manage life on earth.

Brian-LaMacchia-2Brian LaMacchia

Director, Security & Cryptography, Microsoft Research

What will be the key cryptography breakthrough or advance in 2016?
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.

Looking forward 10 years to 2026, what will be the major cryptography advance and what impact will it have on a person’s computing experience?
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.

How would you complete this sentence: 2016 will be the year that…
Continued advances in quantum computing will draw broad attention to the threat it represents to all of today’s widely used public-key cryptosystems – the cryptography that underlies electronic commerce and secure communications on the Internet. The security community will begin planning the migration to new `quantum-resistant’ public-key cryptosystems for which quantum computers provide no computational advantage.

RPrestonMcAfee1Preston McAfee

Chief Economist, Microsoft

What will be the key breakthrough or advance in economics in 2016?
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.

Looking forward 10 years to 2026, what will be the major advance in economics?
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.

How would you complete this sentence: 2016 will be the year that…
Silicon Valley recognizes that the value of Uber is its marketplace, not the data, but that is probably too optimistic. The big data bubble has longer to run.

sriram-web-photoSriram Rajamani

Assistant Managing Director, Microsoft Research India

What will be the key security technology breakthrough or advance in 2016?
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.

Looking forward 10 years to 2026, what will be the major advance in security and what impact will it have on a person’s computing experience?
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.

How would you complete this sentence: 2016 will be the year that…
A new generation of security solutions based on trusted hardware (such as Intel SGX and comparable features from other hardware vendors) starts to hit the marketplace, transforming how we think about security.

krysta-svore_2014Krysta Svore

Senior Researcher, Microsoft Research NExT
@krystasvore

What will be the key technology breakthrough or advance in quantum computing in 2016?
The confirmation and demonstration of a topological qubit will be a key technology breakthrough for quantum computing in 2016.

Looking forward 10 years to 2026, what will be the major advance in quantum computing and what impact will it have on a person’s computing experience?
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 fertilizer or extract waste carbon from the air.

How would you complete this sentence: 2016 will be the year that…
We see the exploration and development of new, real-world quantum algorithms by programming in LIQUi|> (Language-Integrated Quantum Operations). More people will become quantum mechanics!

chandu-thekkath_2014Chandu Thekkath

Managing Director, Microsoft Research India

What will be the key technology breakthrough or advance in India in 2016?
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, what will be the major technology advance in India and what impact will it have on a person’s computing experience?
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.

How would you complete this sentence: 2016 will be the year that…
Rural connectivity takes off in India and significant portions of India come online.

jeannette-wing_2013Jeannette Wing

Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Research

What will be the key technology breakthrough or advance in 2016?
Two responses:
Scientific breakthrough: 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.
Information Technology advance: We will see more sensors and devices for monitoring metabolic state so individuals can track their health and wellbeing beyond heart rate.

Looking forward 10 years to 2026, what will be the major technological advance?
We will be able to program living cells.

How would you complete this sentence: 2016 will be the year that…
Presidential candidates will debate the role of encrypted communication in the conflict between the need for government to protect national security and the need for companies to protect the privacy of individuals’ identity and data.