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Microsoft research offers peek at future

Labs show what's in store from software giant

At a mini tradeshow at Microsoft's Mountain View campus, researchers from the company's California labs have been showing off some of the future technologies they are working on.

Upcoming projects include one called No Spam @ Any [CPU] speed, an antispam concept which slows down the delivery of junk mail — literally.

No Spam works by sending cryptographic puzzles to hold up emails from senders not in the recipient's address book. If the sender fails to respond to a message requesting that they run the antispam filter, the email is rejected. The computation takes approximately 10 seconds per message and would quickly become burdensome for spammers who send millions of messages daily.

But this is just the beginning of what the Microsoft could potentially have to offer. Other projects currently being worked on include:

GWindows: a software technology that introduces an optical interface that enables users to make hand gestures to interact with Windows and, potentially, with applications.

PageTurner: an alternative to web-crawling as a way to gather information for use in search engines. Because the total amount of web content keeps growing, PageTurner relies on incremental crawling to identify changed material, instead of checking everything. According to researchers, only seven percent of web pages change one-third or more of their content every week, so this approach could make for more efficient and up-to-date search results.

MyLifeBits: this rather eclectic approach to database development seeks to assemble information, such as music and video, in formats that could not be stored digitally until fairly recently.

TerraServer Storage Project: a web service that spans many geographic databases, cross-referencing a variety of maps. The selection, which draws from satellite images and topographic maps, is available to the public at TerraService.Net.

SkyServer: the astronomical equivalent of TerraServer, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey SkyServer also already exists online in an early form, with help from the Sloan Foundation, at SkyServer.

Security and privacy issues are a major concern in many research projects. In fact, Microsoft's companywide Trustworthy Computing initiative requires that security be considered in any Microsoft project.

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