Finding a means to personalize the computing experience via a 3D interactive GUI (graphic user interface) is one of the goals for faculty and students at the University of Alberta’s Advanced Man-Machine Interface (AMMI) laboratory in Edmonton.


lab opened on May 30. Pierre Boulanger, an associate professor with the U of A’s Department of Computing Science and a member of the AMMI Research Group, told Computing Canada his team is focused on investigating interactions between humans and machines in natural and artificial environments. One of the research group’s more exciting topics is the pursuit of human performance in virtual environments, he said.

“”We had separate labs: one in spatial computing another was a multimedia lab. We decided to put the groups together,”” Boulanger explains. “”One focus is human-centred automation … rather than have automation replace human beings, this is the opposite … if you put a human being at the centre of things and you’re able to translate that information you can create systems that help humans make decisions.””

The AMMI’s other areas of research includes virtual meetings, real-time video tracking, development of expert forestry inventory systems, computer-based skill acquisitions and transfers, and intelligent monitoring of humans and animals in natural environments. “”We don’t want to forget about automation,”” he says. “”We want to see how far we can automate things, certainly that is one of our main goals.””

Edmonton-based Bay Equities Inc. provided the AMMI with its RealDesk 3D graphics software. The product is designed to give users a 3D program that brings together 3D graphics, file organization, and home automation into an easy-to-use software application for the home or office computer, explains Jeremy Teeuwsen, IT manager for Bay Equities. “”RealDesk is a 3D desktop that helps you find information quickly and easily. It’s designed to provide the user with a natural interactive experience, the same as in real life,”” he says.

Alister Sutherland, senior analyst with IDC Canada in Toronto, said the research being conducted at the AMMI is interesting but he wondered if RealDesk holds any real value for the public at this juncture.

“”It’s very interesting, but it’s not commercially viable at this point,”” he said. “”There have been attempts in the past at creating a simulated real world experience on the desktop computer, but there doesn’t seem to be any desire out there for it. Having said that, it’s good to be doing research into machine interface.””


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