Microsoft, Brown University Launch Center For Pen-Based Computing

The goal is to combine the pen and the computer in new ways, for both educational and broader use. Microsoft will fund the center with $1.2 million over the next three years.

W. David Gardner, Contributor

March 21, 2006

2 Min Read

Microsoft and Brown University launched the Microsoft Center for Research on Pen-Centric Computing, at the university in Providence, RI. Monday. The university announcement stated that the center is aimed at "improving pen-based operation of Tablet PCs, Pocket PCs and Palm Pilot personal digital assistants (PDAs), electronic whiteboards and conventional desktop computers."

"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," said Rick Rashid, senior vice president of research at Microsoft, in a statement. Microsoft will fund the center with $1.2 million over the next three years.

Director of the center will be Andries van Dam, the university's vice president for research. Both Brown and Microsoft have pioneered pen-based computing research. Brown researchers have investigated gesture-recognition software for more than a decade in studies that have been partially funded by Microsoft. "The pen is mightier that the keyboard," van Dam stated.

Brown University participants cited handwriting recognition, and software that recognizes notations in fields including mathematics, chemistry, art, and design as targeted areas of investigation

"The software would allow the data to be stored as digital ink and shared as handwriting, sketches, or text," according to the Brown announcement. "Programs will also allow for exciting, instantaneous data transformations -- for example, turning the symbolic notation of a sketched molecule into a 3-D model of that molecule that the user can view from any vantage point."

"These devices will eventually replace paper print media," Rashid said. "We are reaching a point in the future where any surface can be an interactive surface. Input and output will soon be equal."

The official launch of the research center took place at Brown's Thomas J. Watson Jr. Center for Information Technology, which was named after the late Brown graduate and former head of IBM, Thomas J. Watson Jr.

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