Blog of FUSE Labs at Microsoft Research

Jul 21

Creating Data-driven Comics

“What are you working on this summer?”

“Data-driven comics.”

Usually, at this point, the person I’m talking to puts a huge grin on their face and exclaims how awesomethat sounds, and I get to bask in the satisfaction of having found a really catchy way of summing up my internship project at FUSE Labs.

Then, they think for a moment and ask the inevitable question: “So what does that mean?” That would be the point where I’d admit that I actually had no idea but doesn’t it sound cool?

However, a couple weeks into the internship and several exploratory prototypes later, I’d like to share some of the thoughts we have on how data and comics can work together to help people make sense of what is going on around them. 


Comics are often used to tell stories about how events were perceived.
Maus by Art Spiegelman; Stop Paying Attention by Lucy Knisley; Johnny Wander by Yuko Ota and Ananth Panagariya; Footnotes in Gaza by Joe Sacco.

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Jul 10

[PUBLIC EVENT] 9 Awesome Projects that Aim to Make Sense of a Billion Sensors - July 15

In a world with a billion sensors, how will we make sense of it all?  Come see project presentations from teams at the top design schools from around the world responding to this challenge at the Design Expo part of the Microsoft Faculty Summit.    

Mine is by Omer Shapira, Carl Jamilkowski, Donna Miller Watts and Michael Rothman at NYU’s ITP program, advised by Clay Shirky, Robert Dietz, and Jenny Rodenhouse.

The projects are:

The design critics  this year are Bill Buxton (Microsoft Research), Liz Gerber (Northwestern), and Tom Igoe (New York University).  To give you a sense of what happened last year, check out this PBS report.

WHEN: Tuesday, July 15, 10:15AM - 12:45PM

WHERE: Microsoft Conference Center, Building 33, Kodiak Room

16070 N.E. 36th Way REDMOND, WA 98052

HOW: Contact to be added to the guest list. Microsoft employees, and attendees to the Faculty Summit can attend without prior approval.

Jun 30

Welcoming FUSE East (NYC) Interns 2014

As internship season progresses, we are thrilled to welcome 2 interns to FUSE Labs in NYC, both Juergen Brandstetter and Noah Liebman. We’re already having a blast working together!

Juergen Brandstetter @BrandiATMuhkuh is doing his PhD in Human Robot Interaction at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Juergen earned a Masters in Human Computer Interaction at the Institute of Technology in Vienna. His research interest is in persuasive robotics with a focus on linguistic cues. Besides his PhD, he’s also a design thinking tutor and prototyper.

This summer he’ll be focusing on persuasive behavior techniques for social robots to influence the performance of human routines in the workspace. While the amount of industrial and service robots increased dramatically over the last couple of years, the paradigm of social robots is still a largely unexplored field. Social robots, in comparison to the other two types of robots (industrial, service) are created for direct contact with humans and work on a more emotional rather than technical level. Most research with social robots is done in isolated lab environments. Jürgen will apply social robotics in a real environment to test and study persuasive techniques aimed at helping employees improve their work-life balance in a socially acceptable way.

Noah Liebman  @Noleli is a PhD student in both Computer Science and Communication Studies at Northwestern University. He is excited by how the design of technological artifacts affects people’s social behavior when interacting with technology and each other. His work spans areas as diverse as emoticon use in instant messaging and the design and prototyping of a haptic system to help people coordinate.

Whether in their personal lives or at work, people are always striving to improve. This summer he’s focusing on designing persuasive technology to help people stay “on track”. This project will draw on the combined behavior of crowds to help people realize what is feasible and what they are capable of achieving.

Jun 27

Introducing Joy Kim, data-driven comics research intern

I have the pleasure to introduce Joy Kim, a new member of the FUSE intern family. She is a PhD student at Stanford HCI where she works on social computing and creativity. One of her recent projects is Ensemble, a platform for writing collaborative stories.

At FUSE, we will be working on a project focused on data-driven comics. Her first assignment was to introduce herself through a comic, which, as you can see, she’s quite good at! 


If you like data, or comics, or both, come back to read more about her work in a few weeks.

Jun 19

Announcing the Peer Economy research projects receiving the FUSE Labs Award

We are really excited to announce the projects receiving the FUSE Labs Research Award this year. We were impressed by the quality and volume of applications (almost a hundred applicants!). 

It is clear there is a lot of interest in this area, so we will be looking for more ways to foster research and collaboration in this space. We will be having a session on this topic at the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit, for those of you who are attending, we hope to see you there. We are also hoping to organize other events in the future. 

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Jun 13

Everybody Knows This Isn’t Nowhere: Designing for Non-Places

This summer at FUSE, we’ve been thinking about the “non-places” that people spend much of their lives at every day. While this term might be new to you, the concept is surely familiar. Maybe you’re even reading this post from a non-place right now. Non-places are the transient waypoints we pass through on the way to where we are going. When we’re stuck in traffic on the highway on our way home from work, or waiting at the terminal for our flight to depart, or riding the subway surrounded by the same familiar strangers each morning, we’re at non-places. We visit non-places often, but they are never our destinations. 


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May 28

Eventful: Journalism as a Service Through Crowdsourcing

What if requesting an event report was as easy as ordering an Uber ride?

In a previous blog post we described the process of leveraging collaborative writing tools and TaskRabbit, for local news production. We then began to wonder what an automated, streamlined platform for journalism-as-a-service would look like. Would there be a way to connect on-demand labor, with those who need a report of an event?

We built a system that would support exactly this process. Eventful makes it possible for anyone to access the service of event reporting. The reporting process is executed behind the scenes through a crowd of people working online or at the event to produce a news report


Eventful makes requesting a report a one-step process: identify the event type, location, date, and duration. A few hours later and under $150 dollars, a multimedia event report is ready. 

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May 21

Internship season starts! Welcoming Justin Cranshaw, urban computing researcher

One of my favorite things about MSR is that we get to collaborate with talented PhD students from around the world who come to intern with us during the summer. For me, it’s also a great opportunity to explore and learn about new research areas. This summer, we have five talented grad students joining us. Justin Cranshaw is the first of them.

Justin is a Computer Science PhD student at Carnegie Mellon studying urban computing. In his research, he’s seeks to better understand and better engage with urban processes through new forms of ubiquitous and social computation. You might know one of his previous projects: Livehoods, a system to understand urban dynamics using social media data from Foursquare. Livehoods received a best paper award at ICWSM 2012.


This summer, we will be investigating ways of helping individuals and communities track their own mobility patterns. We are calling this the Quantified Mobility Project for now.

We are particularly interested in public transit, and ways of reducing environmental impact, supporting healthier lifestyles, and finding opportunities for sharing excess resources (à la UberX).

Look for follow up blog posts as we document our progress!

Request for Proposals - Peer Economy Research Awards

We are funding academic researchers doing work on the Peer Economy (also known as the Sharing Economy). Two page proposal due: June 6. Notification mid June. Awards totaling up to $100,000 USD. Open to US and non-US applicants, faculty, students, and other researchers as long as they are part of an non-profit institution. Learn more.

Apr 16

[Talk] Tracing the Constellation of Actors in the Peer Economy - 4/16 @ 12pm

Tomorrow (4/16) we’ll have a Denise Cheng from MIT presenting her research on the peer economy. This is what she has to say about it: 

Americans’ normative understanding of work is imploding. Throughout most of the twentieth century Americans equated landing a job to a lifetime of smooth sailing. In recent decades, faith in gainful employment has collapsed, and other models are emerging to fill the void. The peer economy is one such model.

Whether by radio, by newspaper or by screen, you cannot miss it. Stories abound about hobbyists who sell crafts on Etsy. Dwellers use Airbnb to rent out parts of their living space to travelers. Ordinary people who use their cars as private drivers for a few hours a day. This is the peer economy. At its base are online, peer-to-peer marketplaces that enable people to monetize skills and assets they already have. Peer economy platforms equip suppliers or providers with tools that empower them to transact with strangers and, in turn, depend on these transactions for ongoing income.
I lay out the expanse of the peer economy and why it is so exciting. The flexibility of working in the peer economy brings in many people who are defined out of the traditional workplace—homecarers, the elderly, the mentally disabled, alongside the underemployed college graduate. Powering this momentum on a macro level are investors, companies, corporations, scholars, policymakers, and more. On the micro-level, however, there are very real risks, and I will detail known problems in the space, including tax remittance, regulatory skirmishes, liability, and operational costs. 
Finally, the peer economy’s expanse is also why it is so confusing. Peer economy, sharing economy, collaborative economy, crowdsourcing… liberal use of these terms have led to widespread misunderstandings. I suggest that inaccurate terminology leaves the peer economy vulnerable to criticism and peer economy users in limbo as policy begins to take shape.

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