Australia becomes home to new hi-tech research centre

Microsoft and the University of Melbourne are partnering with the State Government of Victoria to open a major research centre dedicated to new social interactive technologies.

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 smart phones, 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 the 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 that 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 Richmond (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.

Associate Professor Frank Vetere, Director of the Centre and leader of the Interaction Design Lab in the Melbourne School of Engineering’s Department of Computing and Information Systems at the University of Melbourne, 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.

The Centre was officially launched this morning at the University of Melbourne by the Hon. Gordon Rich Phillips, Assistant Treasurer of Victoria and Minister for Technology.

This story first appeared on the Melbourne newsroom on Dec 5, 2013.

In the media:

Microsoft Research and University of Melbourne open center to study social natural interfaces, by Brian Heater,, 5 Dec, 2013.

World first for Melbourne as Microsoft opens social interactive tech lab, by Lia Timson, Sydney Morning Herald and Fairfax outlets, 5 Dec, 2013.

Microsoft, University of Melbourne launch high-tech research centre, Andrew Trounson, The Australian, 5 Dec, 2013.

Microsoft, University of Melbourne join forces on Natural User Interface by Supratim Adhikari, Technology Spectator, 5 Dec 2013.

Microsoft, Melbourne University and Victoria in ‘flagship’ NUI partnership, by Stephen Withers,, 5 Dec, 2013.

What A Social NUI Is (And Why Developers Should Care), by Angus Kidman,, 5 Dec 2013.

Microsoft Research opens “Microsoft Centre for Social Natural User Interface” in Melbourne, by Long Zheng,, 5 Dec, 2013.

$8m Microsoft Kinect research centre opens in Melbourne, by Paul Smith, Australian Financial Review, 5 Dec 2013.

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