MIT Gets Funds for 'Human-Centered Computing'

At a press conference here Wednesday, MIT's Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS) announced that its Project Oxygen -- an ambitious human-centered computing project -- will be getting a financial and research boost from six technology vendors.

LCS Director Michael Dertouzos said the vendor participation is part of a wider US$50 million funding commitment that the computer science lab has received to fund Project Oxygen over the next five years. The six companies plan to contribute more than 50 percent of that money, and the rest will come from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which initially funded the project.

Joining the so-called "Oxygen Alliance" are Acer Inc., Delta Electronics Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp., Nokia Corp. and Philips Research, a unit of Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V.

Project Oxygen is "a system prototype that aims to go in the direction of pervasive, human-centered computing," Dertouzos said. "We've been catering to machines for too long."

The project, which was created at MIT last year, has three components: devices to deliver information to people, interactive user interface technology and a software core to bring it all together. Technologies integral to Oxygen include speech and visual recognition, automation and collaboration, according to Dertouzos.

A working Oxygen prototype is scheduled to be built later this year. But Professor Rodney Brooks, director of MIT's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, said it will take at least two years before Oxygen-based technology comes to market. The AI lab is also involved in the project, which is being worked on by 150 researchers at MIT.

This is not the first standards initiative to come out of MIT. The school also has helped spearhead projects such as the World Wide Web Consortium and the X Window technology, which was used as a cornerstone component of Unix network configuration. All of the parties working on Project Oxygen have agreed that the software will be open source, officials said.

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