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Australia will play a major role in the development of new social interactive technologies with the opening today of a joint research centre, the first of its kind in the world.
The Microsoft Centre for Social Natural User Interface Research at the University of Melbourne, is an $8M collaboration over three years between the founding partners, Microsoft, the University of Melbourne and the State Government of Victoria.
Aspects of Natural User Interface (NUI) technologies that combine voice, gesture recognition, eye gaze, body-movements and touch are found in smartphones, tablets and devices like Xbox Kinect.
The joint centre will be a focal point for researchers to undertake ground breaking research on the social uses and applications of these new NUI technologies so that they are natural, intuitive and strengthen human relationships.
It will explore how such technologies can enable new forms of social and collaborative behaviours, including how people communicate, play, learn and work together in different settings - in the home, the work place, in education, health and public spaces.
Microsoft said a partnership approach for the centre was ideal given the University of Melbourne’s status as a world class institution with a well established reputation in IT research, along with the Victorian Government’s commitment to innovation and attracting high quality IT research to the State.
“This is a world class research centre, located at a world class university in a forward thinking State,” said Tony Hey, Vice President, Microsoft Research.
“Microsoft is passionate about creating amazing devices and services that can help people reach their full potential and I am confident the Centre will open the flood gates to innovative social uses of NUI. The potential for social NUI will only be limited by our imagination,” he said.
Professor James McCluskey, Deputy Vice- Chancellor (Research) at the University of Melbourne said the University was proud to be a founding partner for the Centre and to be able to contribute to the development of new research discoveries into the state of the art field.
“This centre will foster Australian researchers to work closely with world leading software company Microsoft to collaborate on new and exciting technologies that will ultimately change our lives,” he said.
Academics and PhD students in the centre will undertake research alongside some of the leading Social NUI researchers in the world, and will have the opportunity to spend time at Microsoft’s research centres such as Cambridge (UK), Beijing, and Redmond (US).
In addition to 28 dedicated positions, the centre will also welcome researchers with an interest in social NUI from across the Asia Pacific and around the world.
Professor Frank Vetere, Director of the Centre, who leads the Interaction Design Lab in the Department of Computing and Information Systems in the Melbourne School of Engineering said, “This new centre will undertake important work in terms of creating the next generation of computing experiences.”
“Social NUIs, in particular, humanise technology, they are about making technology work for people rather than people working for technology,” he said.
The partners expect the centre to play an important role in Microsoft’s broader R&D efforts.