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CONTACT: David F. Salisbury, News Service (415) 725-1944;
Four Discover innovation award finalists have Stanford connections
For eight years, the popular science magazine Discover has bestowed annual awards for technological innovation. Their purpose is to "recognize and applaud scientists and engineers who are the unsung heroes of our technological age."
Four of this year's finalists had Stanford connections, although none of them won awards.
The magazine invites nominations from more than 4,000 corporate, academic and government research centers. From these nominations, the magazine editors selected 33 finalists in seven categories: Automotive and Transportation, Aviation and Aerospace, Computer Hardware and Electronics, Computer Software, Environment, Sight, and Sound. Expert panels in each category then pick the award winner.
The winners were announced earlier this month at an Academy Awards-style ceremony at Disney's EPCOT Center in Florida and are published in the July issue of the magazine. The Stanford connections:
- The Hobby-Eberly Telescope is an innovative telescope designed to drastically reduce the cost of large telescopes by replacing the single large reflector with dozens of smaller ones. It was a finalist in the Aviation & Aerospace category. The instrument, which will begin producing its first images this summer, is located at the McDonald Observatory, 185 miles southeast of El Paso. The University of Texas and Pennsylvania State University are the founding partners in the project. Stanford and two German universities the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich and the Georg-August University in Göttingen are junior partners.
- The Total Access System, designed by Neil Scott, an engineer at Stanford's Center for the Study of Language and Information, was a finalist in the Computer Hardware and Electronics category. The system is a universal translator between computers and people with disabilities. It acts by translating the output from customized access devices like voice recognition systems, head trackers and eye trackers into an electronic form that is identical to that of the computer's keyboard and mouse.
- Developing computer characters who can improvise has been the object of Barbara Hayes-Roth, a senior research engineer in computer science. Two years ago she set up her own company Extempo Systems to develop these characters further. Her characters, which she calls imps, were finalists in the Computer Software category. She got started in this research because she was concerned that the software game industry was not developing products of interest to girls.
- Under the category of Sight, one of the finalists was the 3-D video display technology developed by Elizabeth Downing. The mechanical engineering graduate student, who worked under the supervision of electrical engineering Professor Lambertus Hesselink, is on leave from Stanford and has set up her own company, called 3-D Technology, to commercialize the method that uses twin beams of laser light to create actual 3-dimensional images inside a crystal cube.
For more information on the Web go to the Discover magazine home page at http://www.enews.com/magazines/discover/page6.html.
By David F. Salisbury