Microsoft, Victoria, Melbourne Uni team up for UI research

A new AU$8 million research facility will look at the social aspects of creating tomorrow's user interfaces.
Written by Michael Lee, Contributor

A new Natural User Interface (NUI) research facility within the University of Melbourne has been established through the partnership of the tertiary institute, Microsoft, and the Victorian Government.

The AU$8 million collaborative project focuses on the social aspect of NUI — using voice, gestures, eye gaze, body-movement and touch as a user interface.

None of the three parties have disclosed the funding arrangement behind the partnership.

State technology minister Gordon Rich-Phillips said that the government's non-financial contributions included providing business location advice, and leading the discussions required to establish the centre.

While declining to specifically comment on whether its funding contribution was new or part of an existing budgeted programs, Rich-Phillips said that "this type of activity is part our ongoing investment facilitation efforts and is supported by Victoria's Technology Plan for the Future — ICT."

Frank Vetere, who is the new director for the centre, highlighted that it was certainly a shared venture between all three parties, and that several people from the minister's department currently sit on its advisory board.

"We expect that like all good research, it generates not just knowledge, but it generates a momentum towards an IT capacity in the state," he said.

The new centre will create 28 new positions  and is expected to generate global interest from NUI researchers, with the Asia Pacific region mentioned specifically in Microsoft's announcement.

Microsoft Research vice president Tony Hey told ZDNet that its long-standing personal relationships with the university and its researchers made sense for the establishment of the centre. In addition to further building the partnership between government, industry and academia, Microsoft said that some of its technology would be used in the centre.

This includes the Kinect One, recently released with the Xbox One. Hey was clear to state that this technology would not be the only focus, or the only form of technology in use in the centre, however, with the social aspects of NUI a very important driver for the facility.

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