I was recently challenged to photograph for a feature about how Microsoft are applying their computer research, for system design to quantum computing and data visualization, to solve one of the most complex and deadly challenges humans face: Cancer.
We decided to photograph a series of portraits of the main protagonists involved in the project to be supported by some graphics to illustrate the actual work.
It is one of the privileges of being a photographer to work with incredible organisations, photograph remarkable people and be part of a project that is potentially going to profoundly impact not only our ability to understand how biological systems work but also to program them.
Microsoft is trying to change the way research is done on a daily basis in biology.
One team of researchers is using machine learning and natural language processing to help the world’s leading oncologists figure out the most effective, individualized cancer treatment for their patients, by providing an intuitive way to sort through all the research data available.
Another is pairing machine learning with computer vision to give radiologists a more detailed understanding of how their patients’ tumors are progressing.
Yet another group of researchers has created powerful algorithms that help scientists understand how cancers develop and what treatments will work best to fight them.
And another team is working on moonshot efforts that could one day allow scientists to program cells to fight diseases, including cancer.
The London Design Festival is an annual event, held to celebrate and promote London as the design capital of the world and as the gateway to the international creative community.
Last year I was commissioned to photograph “A celebration of FLOS Lighting” at the Atrium showrooms during the London Design Festival. The event was attended by architects, creatives and designers including Piero Gandini, Jasper Morrison and Michael Anastassiades as well as Atrium’s chairman, Patrick Dormoy.
On show were some of the incredible new designs such as the Superloon, Copycat and Captain Flint alongside iconic pieces such as the arc floor lamp and string lighting.
The Festival is running from the 17-25 September 2016.
I recently photographed Oscar nominated Carey Mulligan’s appointment as the first ever UK Global Dementia Friends Ambassador by the Alzheimer’s Society and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt at Heathrow Airport.
I had to contend with the usual challenges plus airport security and deafening noise from the passing airplanes! I can be seen on the BBC feature
In her new role, Carey will bring both international attention to the benefits of making communities dementia friendly, and a renewed focus on the Alzheimer’s Society’sDementia Friends programme in England.
To mark the announcement, Carey met with Jeremy Hunt at Heathrow Airport, which is working towards becoming the world’s first dementia friendly airport, to lead a Dementia Friends training session for the airport’s staff. She set out the UK’s role as a global leader in dementia and outlined her plans to champion the rights of people with dementia across the world.
Dementia is the biggest health and social care crisis facing the world today. 47.5 million people are living with the condition globally, with this number set to rise to 135 million by 2050.
While awareness of dementia is improving internationally, stigma is still rife in many communities. In some countries, people with dementia are excluded from playing an active role in society while too many people still lose relationships and jobs because of misconceptions that exist around the condition.
Carey Mulligan said:
'My grandmother has dementia and I have experienced first-hand how devastating it can be. It affects everyone differently, and it’s so important that everyone affected by the condition is treated with the respect and dignity that they deserve. At the moment, there’s not nearly enough awareness and as a global society we have a duty to change that.
'The first step involves educating people and breaking down stigma – not just on our doorstep, but across the world. I’ve seen my Mum doing this in her role as a Dementia Friends Champion - now I’m honoured to become the first UK Global Dementia Friends Ambassador and help Alzheimer’s Society and the Government change global attitudes towards dementia.'
Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, said:
'We have made great strides in improving diagnosis rates, investing in research and creating the first dementia friendly communities, but we still have much further to go to promise everyone that they will be able to live well with the condition.
'The impact of dementia tears at families and at our social fabric - that’s why making progress is a key government priority. Carey Mulligan will be a great asset both in raising awareness and promoting the benefits of the Dementia Friends programme – at home and globally.'
Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive at Alzheimer’s Society, said:
'Dementia doesn’t stop at UK borders – it’s the biggest health crisis facing the world today.
'One of the biggest challenges in creating Dementia Friendly Communities is getting people to talk about dementia. Dementia Friends has proved to be a great springboard to inspire global dementia action. We are delighted that Alzheimer’s Society supporter Carey Mulligan will be leading the way in her role as UK Global Dementia Friends Ambassador.
'As the global dementia crisis snowballs, collaboration between countries is crucial in creating lasting change and a global dementia movement towards acceptance, inclusion and support for people living with dementia and their carers. We look forward to Carey’s leadership helping us tackle stigma on an international scale and achieve better lives for people with dementia the world over.'
I recently worked with Microsoft News and Allison Linn, photographing Microsoft's' gesture technology' at their research Lab in Cambridge.
Microsoft researchers are looking at a number of ways in which technology can start to recognize detailed hand motion — and engineers can put those breakthroughs to use in a wide variety of fields.
The ultimate goal: Allowing us to interact with technology in more natural ways than ever before.
“How do we interact with things in the real world? Well, we pick them up, we touch them with our fingers, we manipulate them,” said Jamie Shotton, a principal researcher in computer vision at Microsoft’s Cambridge, UK, research lab. “We should be able to do exactly the same thing with virtual objects. We should be able to reach out and touch them.”
This kind of technology is still evolving. But the computer scientists and engineers who are working on these projects say they believe they are on the cusp of making hand and gesture recognition tools practical enough for mainstream use, much like many people now use speech recognition to dictate texts or computer vision to recognize faces in photos.
That’s a key step in Microsoft’s broader goal to provide more personal computing experiences by creating technology that can adapt to how people move, speak and see, rather than asking people to adapt to how computers work.
“If we can make vision work reliably, speech work reliably and gesture work reliably, then people designing things like TVs, coffee machines or any of the Internet of Things gadgets will have a range of interaction possibilities,” said Andrew Fitzgibbon, a principal researcher with the computer vision group at the UK lab.
Although hand movement recognition isn’t being used broadly by consumers yet, Shotton said that he thinks the technology is now getting good enough that people will start to integrate it into mainstream experiences.
Let’s say you’re talking to a colleague over Skype and you’re ready to end the call. What if, instead of using your mouse or keyboard to click a button, you could simply make the movement of hanging up the phone?
When people think about hand and gesture recognition, they often think about ways it can be used for gaming or entertainment. But there is also a great potential for using gesture for everyday work tasks, like designing and giving presentations, flipping through spreadsheets, editing e-mails and browsing the web.
People could additionally use them for more creative tasks, like creating art or making music.
These types of experiences are only possible because of advances in fields including machine learning and computer vision, which have allowed his team to create a system that gives people a more natural way of interacting with technology.
The team working on hand tracking in Microsoft’s UK lab includes Tom Cashman (top left, standing), Andrew Fitzgibbon, Lucas Bordeaux, John Bronskill, (bottom row) David Sweeney, Jamie Shotton, Federica Bogo.