Taiwan-based Quanta Computer Inc. and the Massachussets Institute of Technology said Friday they are teaming up on a $20 million, five-year project to get PCs, laptops, cell phones, and handhelds to work together seamlessly, intuitively and in sync.
Rodney Brooks, a director of MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, said the agreement, financed by Quanta, is expected to be the first phase of a long-term partnership to incorporate new ideas into products and spur broad discussion of the digital future.
"We are going to be putting together prototypes to demonstrate ideas, and they (Quanta) will put it together in much more solid prototypes, and then we'll do the next level of experimentation beyond that," Brooks said in an interview.
"The hope is we will have a completely redone vision of the personal computer, which will get into the product line in time," he said.
The project will involve meetings between the partners both at MIT and in Taiwan to "work toward a new world of self-organizing devices which make our lives more pleasant and productive," Brooks said.
He hopes for concrete results by pairing the MIT faculty's big-picture perspective with Quanta's marketplace muscle.
Though Quanta isn't a household name in the United States, it's the world's largest producer of laptops, making portable computers and other devices for the likes of Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and International Business Machines Corp.
"They have a longer-term view, but they're also very good at getting things out into the marketplace quickly," Brooks said.
One project focus is simplifying information transfers between devices and overcoming configuration conflicts.
Brooks envisions digital devices that could recognize whether a user is at home, at the office or in a car, and automatically reformat how information is presented on screen to fit the circumstances. For example, a commuter checking e-mail on the go might prefer to read snippets of e-mails rather than digest a single message taking up the entire screen.
"The system should reconfigure itself depending on where I am physically," Brooks said.