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Anderton: SpeechHuman Interface Technology Lab

Human Interface Technology Lab

Jim Anderton Speech: 4:30 pm Monday, 17 February 2003 Opening of Hitlab Old Maths Building, University of Canterbury, Christchurch

The Human Interface Technology Lab is working to create better ways for people to work with computers.

I understand that the HIT Lab research is focussed on the convergence of computer supported collaborative work (CSCW), perceptual user interfaces (PUI) and tangible user interfaces (TUI). (All of which, of course I am intimately familiar with!)

However, all of that obviously means that the ways in which we work with computers are changing radically. For example by using virtual reality we can work with people collaboratively, even though they may be on the other side of the world.

Computers and computer technology are increasingly important to our economy.

When the Government came to identify the three industries most likely to develop innovative technologies that can help the development all the sectors in our economy Information and Communication Technology was an obvious choice alongside biotechnology and the creative industries.

New Zealanders have always been leaders in making innovative technological advances.

This HIT lab is pioneering new and exciting ways of using virtual reality to help us make the most of the growing power of computer technology.

What is particularly important is the effect this can have on the Canterbury and New Zealand economies.

Already the HIT lab has brought together the University of Canterbury and the University of Washington in Seattle. The Canterbury Development Corporation has been involved in creating and maximising benefits for Canterbury.

There are also local and international business partnerships.

The HIT Lab is creating strong partnerships with companies in high technology industries such as electronics, software, telecommunications, medical engineering and light electro mechanical engineering.

Because of the huge benefits to New Zealand, Industry New Zealand has worked closely with the HIT Lab.

Canterbury already has a strong advantage in information technology and electronics, and these partnerships have the potential to create many jobs and build growing businesses with spin off companies as a result.

The Human Interface Technology Laboratory in the USA was established in 1989.

It has resulted in significant social and economic benefits to the state of Washington during its 13 year history. These benefits include: More than US$ 30 million raised in research grants, gifts and contracts; Worldwide recognition for being at the forefront of technology development in the areas of virtual reality and ‘augmented’ reality. 18 companies started. Of these, 12 are still active and two are traded on the Nasdaq; Over 400 jobs created; 12 patents issued.

I am pleased to encourage this development with these types of benefits here in Canterbury.

The key is to encourage the leadership of key individuals and capture their creativity and innovation in order to create new commercialised technologies, and creative satisfying jobs in New Zealand.

The success of the HIT Lab in the USA is attributed largely to the leadership and vision of its founding Director, Professor Furness. Here in New Zealand Mark Billinghurst, a close colleague of Professor Furness and one of the key members of the HIT Lab USA team, has accepted the position of Director of HIT Lab NZ.

Industry New Zealand has already provided a Feasibility Study grant of $50,000 under the Major Investment Fund to HIT Lab NZ in March 2002 to determine the viability of the project. The news from this was all good.

A grant of $281,250 was also provided to HIT Lab NZ under the Sector Initiatives Fund in June 2002 to assist in the formation and setting up of the Lab.

Much of the resultant Intellectual Property will be owned within New Zealand.

There will be spin-off companies and high quality high paid jobs.

To capture the full benefits of this development, additional investment is required now.

I am, therefore, pleased to announce a grant of $500,000 to HIT Lab New Zealand from Industry New Zealand’s Strategic Investment Fund.

The funding is to be paid in four $125,000 amounts. The first is to be paid immediately but the other three contributions are dependent on the HIT Lab meeting specific research and partnership requirements.

These include new companies joining the consortium, signed research contracts and securing at least five patents by July 2004.

This funding is being made available to ensure that employment and technology gains can be made in the fastest possible time.

I want to thank all those involved for making this opportunity possible.

The HIT Lab New Zealand project is an ideal example of the kind of innovative technology we need to foster if we are going to be in the forefront of global economics.

It is a milestone in terms of the development of high-technology capability among New Zealand businesses.

Thanks to Tom Furness and Mark Billinghurst for their belief in the potential of this project and their faith and commitment in turning it into a reality.

I’m proud to take part in such an innovative initiative.

I look forward to returning here to be stunned again by the exciting technological advances generated on our doorstep.

And I look forward to hearing of the jobs and successes this Lab can create as we make the most of the commercial opportunities this creative technology provides for Canterbury and New Zealand.

Thank you.

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