A prototype thesaurus that offers synonyms based on the context of a word in a sentence, rather than just the word itself, was one of about 40 research projects Microsoft presented Feb. 24 during the first day of its weeklong TechFest in Redmond, Wash., reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Type "financial sector" in a word processor, and the thesaurus suggests "financial system" and "financial industry," instead of synonyms for "financial" and "sector" separately. Or enter an entire sentence, and Word will completely rewrite it.
"Investors are expecting details on the Treasury Department’s plans to fix the financial industry"? Nah. How about, "Investors are awaiting information on the Treasury Department’s program to overhaul the financial sector"? Sponsored annually by Microsoft’s computer research arm, TechFest is the company’s science fair for adults.
Researchers stood in front of poster boards and computers, showing off their latest projects as reporters and colleagues from around the world grilled them. Craig Mundie, Microsoft’s chief research and strategy officer, said research and development are particularly important given the global economic crisis. The projects Microsoft unveiled Feb. 24 ranged from the trivial to the impressive. Researchers from Microsoft Research offices in Beijing, China, demonstrated a method of writing in the air, with the invisible text immediately transferred to a PC. A webcam captures a character when a user traces it in the air with any colored object. The computer recognizes the character and then asks the user whether it has chosen the correct one. Ayman Kahleel of Microsoft’s offices in Egypt showed how a system could string together mobile videos in real time. The vision: At a sports event or political rally, thousands of people could shoot video from their cell phones. The videos could be streamed to a central server. There, the Microsoft technology would mesh it together, creating a live video panorama for others to watch at home…

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