I’ve spent the better part of the last decade investigating the impact of digital media and technology on culture from an academic perspective. I have conducted my own qualitative research and devoured nearly every book, article, tweet, post or link I could find on the subject. I’m as interested as any person who can’t do the math could possibly be in what’s going on at the forefront of computer science. Especially as it pertains to its impact on us as humans.
When I got a call from Tricia Mayer, Director of Online Engagement for Microsoft Research, asking if I’d be interested in hosting a new podcast about the most enigmatic division at Microsoft, I was elated. These were the very people I had always wanted to talk to and now I had the opportunity to interview them in person, for the rest of the world to hear as well.
Microsoft has more than 1,200 researchers working at 7 labs in 5 countries. Their work covers the spectrum of cutting-edge technology research – both quantitative and qualitative – in intelligence, systems and theory. If it’s happening in artificial intelligence, data visualization, machine learning, quantum computing, productivity, cryptography, natural language processing, computer vision, virtual and augmented reality, programming languages… it’s happening at Microsoft Research.
The podcast gives Microsoft researchers a platform to share their work with a broad and curious audience, and aims for the perfect balance of professional and personal; technical and human. While the Microsoft Research Podcast is, first and foremost, about the research, it’s also an introduction to the researchers behind the projects. We find out who they are, what makes them tick, what inspires them, what gets them up in the morning, and what keeps them up at night. It’s not just the caffeine.
Every week, I talk to a new researcher and discover the stories behind the technology. The conversations are purposeful, but not scripted. Each interview reflects the unique nature of the subject matter and the person who has dedicated his or her life to it. Each interview reveals something surprising and amazing and each interview has a distinctly different flavor or theme.
One common theme, however, has surfaced in every interview. For some reason, all the researchers think they have the best job in the world. That can’t be right. I have the best job in the world.
Gretchen Huizinga is an educator, researcher and writer who is currently finishing a PhD on the impact of technology on culture. She is the Executive Producer and Host of the Microsoft Research Podcast. She wears better shoes than a podcast warrants.
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