Road to Rio: Our Summer At Bing

Road To Rio: Our Summer At BingIn the Photo (left to right):

David Ku, CVP IPG
Melissa Du, Intern
Shannon Phu, Intern
Grace O’Brien, Intern
Derrick Connell, CVP @ Bing, Cortana

We re in full Olympics swing and are so excited for you to join our Road to Rio! When we received that message from our soon-to-be mentor, Kelly Freed, we couldn t believe it. As interns with the Microsoft Explorer program, would get the opportunity to work on the Rio Games experience this summer at Microsoft. There were still a few weeks of school left, but already we couldn t sit still: We wanted our summer at Microsoft to start already. Along with about 300 other Explorer interns, we were divided into groups, otherwise known as pods .

Our pod had three people: Melissa, a rising junior studying computer science at Stanford University, Grace, a rising sophomore studying product design at Stanford, and Shannon, a rising junior studying computer science at the University of California Los Angeles. We first met each other during intern orientation, and over the course of our internship, bonded over many sushi outings and debugging sessions. Our main project was to help build the Rio Games experience:

Road To Rio: Our Summer At Bing
Bing has many experiences like these, to help users find all sorts of information, such as the 2016 Academy Awards1 and even a Rubik s cube solver2! We were each given ownership of a specific module for the Rio Games Experience.

Melissa would be in charge of building the Daily Predicts module, which used past Olympic data and the Bing Predicts team’s machine-learning algorithms to generate an athlete or country’s chances of winning a certain event. Grace would be in charge of building the Social module, which displayed the five most relevant and popular tweets from Rio 2016 at any given time.

Shannon would be in charge of building the Events to Watch module, which used the Bing Predicts team’s predictions, based on data about sport and athlete popularity, to display the top five events to watch every day. Actually building one of these experiences required a strong understanding of what happens throughout the whole Bing system, from data ingestion to user interfaces. We onboarded by getting an overview of the connection between the various major components that are involved in building experiences like these on Bing which include natural language processing, data storage, and UX rendering.

We then used tools that allowed us to emulate Bing on our local machine and develop our standalone modules in C# before they were merged into the whole Rio Games experience. Our backend development work consisted of obtaining data through layers of caching and then dispatching calls to update data stores so that we could render the new UX. Our frontend work consisted of using Bing’s internal frontend component library to build the view of our module. One of the biggest challenges we faced throughout our project was dealing with the intricacies of the data pipeline. For example, because the Bing Rio Games experience was displayed globally, we had to make sure that each of our modules were localized for the markets that they had to support. Another challenge was learning how to communicate effectively across different teams. Throughout the entire development cycle, we were in close contact with the design team, the editorial team, the Predicts team, and our own dev team, just to name a few.

To get more of an idea of the Rio Games experience that we helped contribute to, you can check out the Bing blog post about it here3.

We were so excited to see something that we had been working on the whole summer actually ship to the entire world while we were still here, and even more excited to see that the millions of fans worldwide enjoyed the Rio Games experience we helped build. Of course, none of the above would have been possible without the help of our incredible mentors Kelly Freed, Zachary Garcia, and Barry Lumpkin, who were always there to answer our barrage of questions and help us with whatever challenges came our way. In addition, we’d also like to thank the rest of the Bing Engineering Team for providing us with support throughout our internship.

We really couldn’t have asked for a better summer and thank our team for providing us with such an amazing experience.

Road To Rio: Our Summer At Bing

– Grace, Melissa, and Shannon, Bing summer interns


  1. ^ 2016 Academy Awards (www.bing.com)
  2. ^ Rubik s cube solver (www.bing.com)
  3. ^ here (blogs.bing.com)

Restuarant review: Belfast Merchant Hotel’s The Great Room

Restuarant Review: Belfast Merchant Hotel's The Great Room

Restuarant Review: Belfast Merchant Hotel's The Great Room

You can never have too many cherubs, lyres or gold leaf when you re building a palace. The former Ulster Bank HQ became Belfast s best hotel ten years ago You can never have too many cherubs, lyres or gold leaf when you re building a palace.

The former Ulster Bank HQ became Belfast s best hotel ten years ago

The Merchant Hotel is a monument to the commercial realisation of the Good Friday Agreement peace dividend.

Ten years old, the hotel occupies the former palatial head quarters of the Ulster Bank in Waring Street. Back then, the long awaited post-Troubles peace dividend had yet to materialise but other economic factors, namely the property boom, were making Belfast more prosperous. In fact, Belfast was re-emerging as a bit of a powerhouse and the Merchant’s 400-plus a night room rate and the arrival of celebrity guests (Meryl Streep stayed over a couple of nights to help raise funds for the MAC) made it irresistible, if also inaccessible, to many of us.

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The hotel’s exuberance of style and architecture, straight from the early Victorian period and Belfast’s industrial heyday, a time when the city would have been talked about in the same admiring tones as we talk now of Dubai, San Francisco and Shanghai, has been further enhanced by the addition of lyre-playing cherubs and various symbols of hedonism to add some fun to the d cor. You can never have enough gold embossed plasterwork, chandeliers or impossibly high ceilings held up by giant marble pillars when you’re creating a palace. And taking prime position in this explosion of visual luxury is the restaurant. Known as the Great Room, the restaurant sits beneath this jaw dropping pomp and splendour in what must have been the former main lobby area of the bank. The advisor remembers walking through the imposing space, her heels echoing along the marble floor to the tellers at the back.

I am an admiring fan of owners Bill and Petra Wolsey. Their marketing genius combined with an innate sense for what is on trend in the drinks business makes their bars and restaurants successful. But I never liked the Great Room. Even when it opened the design of the dining room clashed with the Victoriana in a way that made it visually discomfiting. It was weirdly post Edwardian, a kind of vision of plush Savoy opulence seen through the pages of a dated old magazine in a dentist’s waiting room. But the food was good and the service flawless. It was a special occasion kind of place and prices were not prohibitive.

It reintroduced the concept of eating in hotels just at a time when hotel restaurants were being punished for being generally rotten. Ten years is a long time as a restaurant and now the plush velvet upholstered furniture is worn and shiny dark patches mark the areas of human contact. But the food is still good and the service as slick. A visit last week revealed just how good the Great Room is with a display of culinary fireworks that covered all the bases. A summer garden soup with buttered lettuce and peas was surprisingly not like a gazpacho.

Summer in Ulster is not what it is in Andalucia and our seasonal soup clearly accounted for this. It was an excellent, thick yet light pea-based potage in which the lettuce, wilted in the soup’s heat, provided the last of those summer greens flavours. It was a knockout. The advisor’s dressed white Kilkeel crab came with tomato and toasted sourdough melba and she compared it very favourably to Niall McKenna’s. Turbot for her main came with a shellfish ravioli which was just slightly on the chewy side but otherwise packed with ocean flavours and textures, the shining white block of turbot, flaking under the fork and providing mouthfuls of sweet, briny tastes.

The Iberico pork fillet appeared as pre-cut, fork-sized cubes and triangles matching similarly portioned artichoke and smoked paprika fondants. This was a little Basque festival invoking all those smells and tastes of the region. A lemon tart and some cheeses finished the night off happily. The Great Room should work well for the expense account lunches, particularly as the privacy of each table is assured thanks to the generous space between them. But it’s time for a refurb if the next 10 years are to see a good kick start.

After all, the restaurant is competing with some of the best in Ireland within a few hundred yards.

And because it’s the best hotel in Northern Ireland, there is some expectation that it has a restaurant to match.

The bill

Soup …………………………………………


Crab ………………………………………..


Turbot …………………………………….


Pork ………………………………………..


Carrots ……………………………………..


Cauliflower ………………………………


Bottle Grappin ………………………..


River Rock x 2 …………………………..


Lemon tart ……………………………….


Cheese ……………………………………


Glass Moscatel …………………………


Glass Barsac ……………………………..


Total ……………………………………..


DekaBank expected to buy former Burlo hotel for £154m

DekaBank Expected To Buy Former Burlo Hotel For £154m Dublin’s former Burlington Hotel is expected to sell for around ‘ 180m ( 154m).

The future of Dublin’s former Burlington Hotel as a four-star hotel and conference venue is to be secured following the entry of German asset manager DekaBank into exclusive talks with its owners. Acquired by Blackstone for ‘ 67m ( 57m) in 2012, the hotel, which now trades as the Doubletree Hilton, is expected to sell for around ‘ 180m ( 154m).

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Blackstone stands to almost double its money after investing nearly ‘ 20m ( 17m) in refurbishing the hotel. DekaBank fended off rival bids for the former Burlington Hotel from the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and the US-owned Hyatt Hotels and Host Hotels & Resorts.

Dalata Hotel Group, which also owns Belfast’s Maldron and Clayton hotels, is in talks to acquire its leasehold interest. The deal is regarded by the industry as the beginning of a transfer of the ownership of major real estate assets from funds with short-term investment horizons to those interested in holding assets as long-term investments. And while concerns have been expressed that Dalata’s considerable presence in the Dublin hotel market could see its efforts to secure the leasehold of the hotel subjected to scrutiny from Ireland’s Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, the expiration of its lease on the Ballsbridge Hotel in March 2018 should address that issue.

With the removal of the Ballsbridge Hotel’s 399 rooms from Dalata’s overall Dublin room count of approximately 3,200 rooms, the addition of the 502 rooms at the former Burlington would see its total count in the capital increase by just 103. The plan for the former Burlington Hotel to continue operating as a four-star venue will be a welcome boon to the tourism industry, given the ongoing dearth of hotel rooms in Dublin. Immediately prior to the crash and its later purchase by Blackstone, the hotel’s previous owner, developer Bernard McNamara, secured planning permission from Dublin City Council to deliver a ‘ 1bn mixed-use development on its site and adjacent former headquarters of Allianz Insurance.

He paid a combined ‘ 393m ( 336m) for the two properties.

The former Allianz premises was then acquired in June 2014 by developer Johnny Ronan in a joint venture with U+I -formerly Development Securities – and the Belfast-born property investor Paddy McKillen and Colony Capital.

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