A better way to surf the net - Metro US

A better way to surf the net

Members of the University of Calgary computer science department are pushing limits of existing digital display surface research called SurfNet with the help of others across Canada.

Digital displays, such as multi-touch screens, tabletops and wall-sized displays are part of what a group of researchers, industry partners and government collaborators are working on, explained Jeff LaFrenz SurfNet’s network manager. The team hopes to improve software development, performance and usability pertaining to surface computing environments.

U of C SurfNet researcher, Dr. Sheelagh Carpendale said she began looking into these types of tables and large walls approximately in 2003. SurfNet’s principal investigator Frank Maurer connected with her a little later and took on the software engineering angle of the research.

Carpendale’s work has included input from hardware developers and marketers like SMART Technologies. “We’re not doing this in isolation,” she said. “We’re actually involved in discussions as the research progresses so (company) needs are part of the research and part of the driving force.”

LaFrenz explained SurfNet is the link between technology created by companies like SMART Technologies and businesses or homes.

Although digital surface technology is already evolving and available, he feels what’s missing “is the ability for software developers to easily and efficiently develop new innovative applications to take advantage of these new technologies as they become available.”

SurfNet works with manufacturers of hardware as well as industries needing the power these new devices can provide to develop applications helping businesses run more effectively LaFrenz said. He noted the research focus is on real-world application development. Two more U of C researchers are part of the SurfNet team with nine others from Carleton University, University of Saskatchewan, Queen’s University, McGill University and the University of British Columbia.

What LaFrenz and his team feel is important to know about SurfNet is that it’s “a world-class group of researchers from across Canada working on the development of applications that will fundamentally change the way we interact with information in our daily lives, making it easier and more intuitive than has every before been possible.”

See www.nsercsurfnet.org for more information about SurfNet.

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