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Alan Turing Institute computer vision research boosted with $5m cloud computing platform

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The Alan Turing Institute in the UK has been awarded $5 million worth of Microsoft Azure cloud computing credits to support its research into data science.

Researchers at the institute will use the Azure cloud computing platform to undertake computer-intensive activities such as computer vision, data analytics at scale, machine learning and data visualization.

Chris Russell, a research fellow in computer vision and machine learning at the institute, will use the cloud to improve 3D image reconstruction of dynamic objects captured with a single camera. 

‘One area of my research is how I can produce vivid and lifelike 3D models from simple camera footage,’ Russell explained. ‘Even though the code I produce is fast enough to run on a home laptop, in order to get the best 3D reconstructions on a wide range of videos I may need to rerun the code hundreds of thousands of times.’

‘Cloud computing is useful in data science research because we often spend a lot of time thinking and coding, and then we have a short window where we want to use a lot of computation power to immediately test our ideas, before we go back to thinking again,’ Russell added.

The kind of fluctuating need for computation that Russell’s work requires is a great match for the cloud. The research uses shape-from-shading to improve the robustness of 3D reconstruction. The approach models specularities and shading while simultaneously tracking and reconstructing dynamic objects.

‘Azure cloud services will provide our data scientists with an easily accessible platform where they can prototype ideas with a fast turnaround of results, complementing local computing facilities available in the institute’s five founding universities, and national resources such as the supercomputer ARCHER supported by EPSRC,’ said Andrew Blake, the institute’s director.

Jeannette Wing, corporate vice president of Microsoft Research, commented: ‘The Alan Turing Institute is a unique place where researchers from the UK’s top universities come together to push the boundaries of data science. This partnership with the Alan Turing Institute is a prime example of how Microsoft is investing in the global data science research ecosystem, and we look forward to seeing the results of this collaboration.’

Research at the institute will range from challenges in financial services and smart cities to engineering and security, drawing on mathematical representations, inference and learning, systems and platforms, and data-driven methods for the social sciences for understanding human behaviour.


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