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News Releases

Dec 17, 2009

The IDB and Microsoft Research invest US$250,000 on five Latin American scientific research proposals

  • Funds help support the LACCIR Virtual Institute’s efforts to foster innovation in the region
  • Projects cover topics such as Education, Healthcare, and Earth, Environment and Climate Change 

The Latin American and Caribbean Collaborative ICT Research (LACCIR) Virtual Institute announced the five winning research proposals, presented by academic researchers from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Panama and Uruguay, chosen to receive funds from a US$250,000 grant provided by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and Microsoft Research. 

The projects, which cover topics of great relevance to the region such as healthcare, education, and earth, environment and climate change, were chosen from a pool of 25 proposals involving over 150 researchers from 50 institutions in 17 countries. 

Through this call for proposals, LACCIR Virtual Institute, the IDB and Microsoft Research are helping Latin American and Caribbean countries advance technological research that will contribute to address  key social and economic challenges.

“Supporting scientific research is key for the social and economic development of Latin America and the Caribbean and will also help these countries stand out in today’s competitive landscape among the greatest innovators in the world,” said Flora Montealegre Painter, Chief of IDB’s Science and Technology Division.  “Partnering with the LACCIR Virtual Institute and Microsoft Research helps ensure that, through innovations of their own, our universities and researchers are able to address common problems and identify solutions to the unique challenges of the region.” 

The LACCIR Virtual Institute, founded in 2007 with the help of the IDB and Microsoft Research, today encourages collaboration in ICT research among academics and scientists in order to enable economic and social development throughout the region.  The institute, which currently encompasses the participation of 250 researches from 50 institutions in 16 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, also supports research collaboration through other initiatives like  the Short Stay Program, providing funds to help cover Ph.D. students expenses to visit a research center in a different country of her/his university doing relevant research work.    

“Since this initiative began, we have seen researchers throughout the region collaborating more and more, leading to the strengthening of the capabilities of our academic research community,” said Jaime Puente, Director  for Microsoft’s External Research Division in Latin America.  “Our goal is to contribute to the exchange of advanced computing ideas and the development of solutions to the economic and social challenges affecting the region.” 

Choosing the winning projects was a task led by Dr. Ignacio Casas, Executive Director for the LACCIR Virtual Institute, through an evaluation committee comprised of 170 researchers who worked on the basis of “peer review” modality, which consists of an anonymous evaluation made by experts in the same area of the proposal. 

THE FIVE PROJECTS

ERPHA: Emergency Remote Pre-Hospital Assistance. (Healthcare)  David Muñoz from Tecnológico de Monterrey,  Mexico and Agustín Gonzalez from Universidad Tecnológica Federico Santa María, Chile.

Vehicle accidents resulting in trauma occupy the fourth place as a cause of death below cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, and malignant tumors. Effective medical care for injured victims should be delivered during the first hour, also known as the “golden hour,” to reduce the morbidity and mortality rates associated with trauma. Pre-hospital care, delivered at the incident site or during the transfer period to the hospital, is the common type of care provided to the injured patients during the golden hour. Pre-hospital assistance is usually provided by paramedics, often with inadequate supervision by a specialist physician.  This proposal brings together experts in the area of wireless systems, electronic design and information systems to develop the ERPHA (Emergency Remote Pre-Hospital Assistance) system, a technological solution to enable both the continuous monitoring of a patient’s condition and the early interventions of the specialist physician during the pre-hospital period by providing real time key data such as video, audio and vital signs. The proposed ERPHA’s subsystems are: vital sign sensors interfaced through a radiofrequency link, a communication unit to collect and forward key data, an ambulance unit, a physician’s smart phone and a hospital unit.

Bridging the gap between mobile and in-classroom learning.  (Education)  Nelson Baloian from Universidad de Chile and Flavia Santoro from Universidade Federal do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The expected goal that new technologies will transform learning practices has not yet been fully realized. Many researchers’ opinion is that one of the main problems is that the various systems developed for various learning scenarios mainly address a specific learning situation, thus there are too many different systems supporting the different learning situations.  This project would develop several scenarios that include in-classroom activities (like presentations from teacher and/or students), followed by outdoors activities (typically gathering of information and fact findings activities on the field), followed by activities at home (processing the gathered material) and finalizing by a wrap-up activity again in the classroom (presenting the findings on the field and relating it with the teacher previously given by the teacher). A proper platform to support these activities will be set up and these scenarios will be tested in real settings.

Latin American Network to Support Collaborative Education on Experimental Software Engineering. (Education)  Guilherme Travassos from Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Silvana Aciar from Universidad Nacional de San Juan, Argentina; Andrés Neyem from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile; José Luis Arciniegas from Universidad del Cauca, Colombia; Raquel Anaya de Páez from Universidad EAFIT, Colombia and Clifton Clunie from Universidad Técnica de Panamá.

This project proposes to use Computer Supported Cooperative Learning activities to teach best practices in software engineering courses. Particularly, this initiative wants to address the challenges behind distributed software development; a new problem that is not well addressed by universities and that has high relevance in the current software industry. This initiative intends to transfer this knowledge to undergraduate students through a set of distributed collaborative activities designed to reach that goal. This initiative will engage instructors and students in advanced software engineering courses at seven Latin American universities. The participants will work collaboratively, in a real distributed software development scenario, to reach specific goals. These goals will be aligned with the software engineering best practices, and with the knowledge the instructors want to transfer to the students. The collaboration process will be carried out using technology; particularly high-speed academic networks (RENATA Colombia, RETINA-Argentina, REUNA-Chile and Red CyT-Panamá).   The long term goal is to implement a Latin American Laboratory on Software Engineering that helps students of the region to be more competitive on the global market.

Integrating MS Live Earth, Max Ent and Presence into a interconnectivity platform to assist wildlife conservation in the Andes of Chile and Bolivia –LiveANDES. (Earth, Environment & Climate Change)  Cristián Bonacic from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile; Luis Pacheco from Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, Bolivia and Gerardo Ceballos from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico.

The aim of this project is to develop a platform for interconnectivity between MS Live Earth for Bing Maps and novel spatial modeling software (Max Ent and Presence) to manage field data, and estimate wildlife distributions in Chile and Bolivia. Wildlife managers in the Andes currently have little access to simple, interactive tools that help interpret and understand wildlife observation data. There is a need for modern ICT tools to improve decision-support for conflict resolution (e.g. between livestock and predators), species conservation (endangered species) and invasive alien species. The aim is to produce a platform that connects several wildlife distribution modeling applications with MS Live Earth and to promote software literacy between wildlife conservationists in the region.

Accelerated Image Processing and Visualization: Applications in Environmental Sciences and Healthcare. (Earth, Environment & Climate Change)  Marta Mejail from Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina; Álvaro Pardo from Universidad Católica del Uruguay and Claudio Delrieux from Universidad Nacional del Sur, Argentina.

Image processing and visualization are among the most powerful information technologies, with a widely increasing scope of applications like remote sensing, medical imaging, surveillance and simulation and modeling.  In many of these areas, the requirement for huge processing capabilities can be very taxing for real-time applications. For this reason, many attempts to link these technologies with high performance computing (HPC) have been done. HPC accelerated image processing and visualization, however, faces several additional requirements, and applications are also harder to develop.  The purpose of this project is to take advantage of GPU acceleration in specific image processing and visualization problems, in particular, to apply it in real time 3D visualization of topographic environments and associated geospatial information (using flight simulators, scientific visualization, and geographical database technologies), and in medical image processing. This will allow to extend the application scope of the ongoing research projects already developed by the PIs of this presentation in their respective groups or the extension of proposed methods to different medical modalities.

Microsoft Research in Latin America

Overall, Microsoft believes in the transformational impact of innovation and research.  In Latin America, Microsoft Research has been building research capacity and visibility, and advancing the ICT research agenda since 2003 through research grants, technology learning labs, regional research summits, 40 internships and Ph.D. fellowships, and through two virtual research institutes, LACCIR and FAPESP in Brazil, representing a total investment of approximately US $6 million.

About IDB

The Inter-American Development Bank is the main source of multilateral financing for economic, social and institutional development in Latin America and the Caribbean. Its loans and grants support strategies to reduce poverty, address climate change, promote sustainable energy, increase trade and investment, and foster private sector development and regional integration.

About Microsoft Research

Founded in 1991, Microsoft Research is dedicated to conducting both basic and applied research in computer science and software engineering. Its goals are to enhance the user experience on computing devices, reduce the cost of writing and maintaining software, and invent novel computing technologies. Researchers focus on more than 55 areas of computing and collaborate with leading academic, government and industry researchers to advance the state of the art in such areas as graphics, speech recognition, user-interface research, natural language processing, programming tools and methodologies, operating systems and networking, and the mathematical sciences. Microsoft Research currently employs more than 850 people in six labs located in Redmond, Wash.; Cambridge, Mass.; Silicon Valley, Calif.; Cambridge, England; Beijing, China; and Bangalore, India. Microsoft Research collaborates openly with colleges and universities worldwide to enhance the teaching and learning experience, inspire technological innovation, and broadly advance the field of computer science. More information can be found at http://www.research.microsoft.com.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

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