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Microsoft, University of Melbourne in world-first research centre

9 December 2013

Underscoring Australia’s reputation for collaboration between government, academia and business, software giant Microsoft has partnered with the University of Melbourne and the State of Victoria in a research centre devoted to bringing new social interactive technologies to market.

The Microsoft Centre for Social Natural User Interface Research at the University of Melbourne is an A$8 million collaboration over three years between the three founding partners.

Microsoft Research Vice President Tony Hey said the partnership is a perfect fit for the new facility.

“This is a world-class research centre, located at a world-class university in a forward-thinking state,” Dr Hey said.

The centre will focus on Natural User Interface (NUI) technology, which combines voice and gesture recognition, as well as eye gaze, touch and body movements. The technology exists in smartphones, and tablets, as well as recreation and gaming devices such as Xbox Kinect.

At the centre, researchers will explore how NUI technologies can enable new forms of social and collaborative behaviours–how people communicate, play, learn and work together in different settings.

“The research will explore the possibilities of Social Natural User Interface in the home, the workplace, and in education, health and public spaces, such as museums and public squares, to contribute to a more responsive, intuitive and productive user experience,” Victoria’s Minister for Technology, Gordon Rich-Phillips, said.

He added that Victoria, the University of Melbourne and Microsoft have worked closely to support the new centre.

“This innovative partnership between one of the world’s pioneering ICT companies and Australia’s number one ranked university will explore opportunities to break down the barriers in making technology work better for us.”

Microsoft has separately announced plans to establish a cybercrime office in Australia, one of 12 satellite offices worldwide, to combat internet piracy and other forms of online attack.

In November, the software multinational opened a state-of-the-art lab at its headquarters in Redmond, Washington, to assist investigators in stopping cybercrime, which slashes US$500 billion a year from the global economy, Microsoft said in a statement.

US-based Microsoft is a global leader in software, services and solutions. Founded in 1975, it employs 99,000 people in more than 100 countries. It reported annual revenue of US$77.85 billion in the year to 30 June 2013 and is valued at nearly US$320 billion on the NASDAQ exchange.

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