Pen-Centric Computing Alliance

At a joint press conference, Brown University (RI) and Microsoft Research officially announced their alliance aimed at revolutionizing pen-centric computing for the academic environment. Andries van Dam, Brown’s Vice President for Research [pictured left] will serve as Director of a new Microsoft Center for Pen-Centric Computing at Brown that will research new ways instructors and students can interact via pen-centric computing technology.

The research spans the pen-based operation of Tablet PCs, PDAs, electronic whiteboards, and conventional desktop computers. Microsoft will fund $1.2 million over three years, during which Microsoft Research and Brown will develop new ways to use pen-like styluses to operate computing devices. “Pen-based computing has the potential to alter the way students and teachers interact,” said Rick Rashid, Senior Vice President of Research at Microsoft Corp. “And together with Brown University, we will create new ways of combining the pen and the computer to positively affect not only the educational process, but our working methods and our culture.”

Researchers, faculty, and students at Brown will also create and test new software to recognize, interpret, and process handwritten input, including various notational styles in fields like mathematics, chemistry, and art and design. The storage, retrieval, and sharing of such data as “digital ink” will be an important part of this work. Van Dam explained: “Chemists and composers, archeologists and artists all need pen and paper to create and communicate. We want to help them do their work digitally—in a way that is as easy and natural as drawing on paper.” Instantaneous data transformation of a hand-sketched molecule into a 3D interactive model is just one example among many practical applications foreseen for the research.

For more than a decade, researchers at Brown have been involved in related research, and the university is a recognized pioneer in pen-based computing. The new center will help to extend this record of innovation at Brown.

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