Researchers at Microsoft Corp. are tackling the problem so that, in the next few years, computers can map the fastest route as well as make fast adjustments for road work or traffic jams, said Michael Schroeder, assistant director of Microsoft Researchs Silicon Valley lab here.
It comes down to developing a better mapping algorithm, one efficient enough to do massive computations in the palm of someones hand.
"It may be possible to put in a PDA and use for real-time reports of road outages," Schroeder said.
Microsoft Researchs quest to find the shortest path was one of 10 projects on display here on Wednesday during an open house of one of its five research labs. Among the other projects demonstrated were ones focused on ridding Web search of spam, automatically creating summaries of news stories and blocking Internet worms.
While research projects are developed outside of Microsofts product development, the end results ultimately can make their way into features for everyday users, said Dan Ling, corporate vice president of Microsoft Research.
"Its important for us to take some of research we work on and have it benefit the 100s of millions of Microsoft customers around world," Ling said. "At this point, every single Microsoft product has been touched by Microsoft Research."
Ling and other researchers were careful to point out that nothing on display was specifically slated for a product, but the possible connections between some of the projects and Microsofts product plans were apparent.
Take for example a project aimed at battling the rise of Web page spam, where sites use methods such as machine generation of pages and links to mislead search engines. It could directly impact popular Web search engines, such as Microsofts MSN Search, said researcher Marc Najork said.
"Any search engine could and should apply this," Najork said.