For decades the Brown University Graphics Group has focused on research supporting multi-modal interactive scholarship and education. The three foundation projects - Memex, Sketchpad, and Put-That-There - listed on the home page, inspired the Graphics Group to develop or sponsor such diverse projects as HES (1967), Intermedia (1985), Sketch (1996), Exploratories (1998), MathPad (2004), and the educational game Immune Attack (2004).

Our background:

Between 2006 and 2009, in collaboration with Microsoft Research, the Microsoft Center on Pen-Centric Computing (MSpcc), focused on fine-grained pen-centric computing and sponsored a workshop that addressed research issues and presented a wide range of pen-based projects. During this period Dana Tennison completed his pen-based educational Organic Chemistry Ph.D. project, ChemPad.

Current work expands the pen-centric focus to include multi-touch interactive large displays (LADS) as well as an integrated development environment for the humanities (WorkTop).

Our research goals:

Andy van Dam, the director of the center, believes that "in some cases, the pen is mightier than the keyboard." However, the challenge for the center is to show that pen-based computer interfaces have a proper place alongside keyboard and mouse interfaces for applications for work and for play. Imagine, for instance, attending an introductory biochemistry class in which 2D chemical notations on an electronic whiteboard were instantly transformed into interactive displays of 3D molecules, or responding to a stroke of musical inspiration by jotting down conventional music scorings on a PDA that could interpret the handwritten notation for instant playback or structured editing. As Rick Rashid, Senior Vice President of Research at Microsoft, noted during the inauguration, "pen-based computing has the potential to alter the way students and teachers interact ... positively affect not only the educational process but our working methods and our culture."

Our research staff:

During the term of the Center, van Dam's team of full-time researchers and students made a good start to realizing this vision. Together, with support from Microsoft, Brown, and NSF, they established a portfolio of high-profile pen-based applications. ChemPad, a TabletPC application for visualizing molecules, was enthusiastically received by students in Brown Chemistry Professor Matt Zimmt's introductory Organic Chemistry course. Music Notepad, a TabletPC PowerToy demonstration project previously sponsored by Microsoft, has been downloaded by students and professionals around the world and even incorporated into the curriculum in one high school. Other projects, like MathPad2 and Geompad showed similar potential, although they highlighted the need for improvements in recognition algorithms for 2D notations.

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