Brown University, Microsoft Research Open Research Center on Pen-Centric Computing

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — March 20, 2006 — At a joint press conference later today, Brown University and Microsoft Research will unveil plans for the Microsoft Center for Research on Pen-Centric Computing, which will promote and fund research aimed at improving pen-based operation of Tablet PCs, Pocket PCs, Palm Pilot personal digital assistants, electronic whiteboards and conventional desktop computers. The center is the first academic research program in the nation dedicated to pen-centric computing innovation.

Through the three-year joint research and education alliance, Microsoft Research and Brown University will explore and develop new ways to use pen-like styluses to operate computing devices. Under the alliance, Microsoft Research will invest $1.2 million (U.S.) over the next three years.

“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.”

With the goal of driving innovations that will serve the academic community as a whole, researchers at Brown will investigate new ways for computers to recognize and interpret handwritten input. Faculty, students and research staff will also create and test new software that recognizes notations in mathematics, chemistry, art and design, and other fields that have well-developed notational styles. The software would allow the data to be stored as digital ink and shared as handwriting, sketches or text. 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.

Andries van Dam, Brown’s vice president for research and a founding member and first chair of the department of computer science, will serve as director of the new center. “In some cases, the pen is mightier than the keyboard,” van Dam said. “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.”

Brown has been an early pioneer in pen-based computing. For more than a decade, Brown researchers have designed and tested gesture-recognition software, including prototype applications that recognize music, mathematics and chemistry notations. Microsoft has provided partial funding for these initial efforts.

Microsoft understands that academia is at the heart of technological innovation and seeks to catalyze innovation in research and curricula in leading academic institutions worldwide. Today’s announcement reflects Microsoft’s ongoing commitment to partnering with academia in developing new and advanced technologies. The center joins three other institutes formed in collaboration with Microsoft Research.

About Brown University

Brown University is the seventh oldest university in America and the only major research university in the nation where undergraduates are the architects of their own course of study. A member of the Ivy League, Brown is distinguished for its world-class faculty, outstanding graduate and medical students, and tradition of innovative and rigorous multidisciplinary study. At Brown, students and teachers form strong partnerships and work collaboratively on scholarship, research and service. Brown has launched a program for academic enrichment marked by major investments in faculty, facilities, graduate education and scientific research. To support the enrichment plan, Brown has launched the largest capital campaign in its history.

About Microsoft Research

Founded in 1991, Microsoft Research is dedicated to conducting both basic and applied research in computer science and software engineering. Its goals are to enhance the user experience on computing devices, reduce the cost of writing and maintaining software, and invent novel computing technologies. Researchers focus on more than 55 areas of computing and collaborate with leading academic, government and industry researchers to advance the state of the art in such areas as graphics, speech recognition, user-interface research, natural language processing, programming tools and methodologies, operating systems and networking, and the mathematical sciences. Microsoft Research employs more than 700 people in five labs located in Redmond, Wash.; Silicon Valley, Calif.; Cambridge, England; Beijing; and Bangalore, India. The External Research & Programs group within Microsoft Research is dedicated to building world-class relationships with colleges and universities that enhance the teaching and learning experience, inspire technological innovation, and establish Microsoft as a valuable technology partner for higher education. More information can be found at

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

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