Alliance to develop human-centered computers


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The Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS), in association with the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (AI Lab), recently announced the formation of the Oxygen Alliance, a group of companies that will work with MIT researchers to advance and integrate the technologies of the $50 million, five-year Oxygen project.

The companies -- including Acer Group, Delta Electronics, Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp., Nokia Research Center and Philips Research -- will work with MIT researchers to create a new breed of pervasive, human-centered computers devoted to serving people's needs.

The announcement was made during a two-day "Oxygen summit" attended by LCS and AI Lab researchers and representatives of the Oxygen Alliance companies, devoted to a comprehensive overview of Oxygen research.

The MIT Oxygen project -- first announced at the LCS's 35th anniversary celebration in April 1999 and launched in the fall of 1999 with seed funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency -- involves some 250 researchers at LCS and the AI Lab. Its goal is to make computer power as pervasive as the oxygen in the air we breathe. The new computer systems will adapt to people's needs, rather than the other way around.

"For 40 years, makers and users of computers have been catering to machines. It's high time we turn our attention to what people want to do," said Michael Dertouzos, director of the LCS.

Oxygen will involve configurable generic devices, either handheld or embedded in the environment, which will bring computation to us wherever and whenever we might need it. As we interact with these "anonymous" devices, they will adopt our information personalities. We won't have to type, click or use computer jargon; instead we will communicate naturally, using spoken language and visual interfaces.

The new systems will boost our productivity, control a variety of physical devices in our environment, and enable us to work together through space and time. Ultimately, widespread use of Oxygen and its advanced technologies will yield a major leap in human productivity -- one more revolutionary than the move from mainframe computers to desktops.

The Oxygen Alliance will involve collaborative research between the companies and MIT, including personnel exchanges and joint workshops and projects.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on July 12, 2000.


Topics: Computer science and technology, Artificial intelligence

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