Founded at Stanford University in 1992 and relocated to the University of Hawaii in 2003, the Archimedes Project has maintained its mission of ensuring that all people are able to take a full part in the global information society regardless of individual needs, abilities, preferences and culture.
At Stanford, the Archimedes Project was one of approximately thirty research programs within the Center for the Study of Language and Information (CSLI). The rationale behind establishing the Archimedes Project within a cognitive science environment was that while solutions to many of the engineering problems were becoming relatively well understood, there was still very little understanding of how to create effective two-way connections to the mind of a person whose physical body fails to cooperate.
The focus of the Archimedes Project has always been to create accessibility solutions that enable people with disabilities to fully use any IT devices. Research at Stanford centered on the development and evaluation of the Total Access System (TAS) that provides universal access to any IT device. Versions of the TAS were developed for Macintosh, IBM PC, Sun, SGI, and HP computers and workstations. A United States patent for the TAS was issued in 2002. A screen reading version of the TAS for blind users was also developed .
After the TAS was licensed in 1996, Archimedes researchers focused on developing a range of accessors that provide users with their own preferred interaction strategies. Input modalities for accessors included: special switches, scanning, Morse code, handwriting, speech recognition, head tracking, and eye gaze detection. An accessor that generates American Sign Language (ASL) was developed for people who are deaf. A Total Access Gaming Interface (TAGI) was developed for the Sony PS2 video game console along with a gyroscopic
The experience of creating accessors for people with many different disabilities led to the observation that even when they have advanced access tools, people are still faced with the problems of learning how to interact with the operating system and applications on the targeted IT devices. For instance, the first thing a person would almost always say when they began to use a speech accessor was , "What should I say?" Archimedes researchers studying this phenomenon discovered that almost all of the tasks that people perform with a computer require them to learn a script for each of the necessary steps. When faced with a new situation , users must figure out or learn the necessary scripts.
In 2002, Archimedes researchers shifted their focus to finding a way to eliminate the need for people to learn scripts for performing tasks on a computer or other IT appliance. More than a decade of working with speech recognition systems had shown that people perform best when the interaction with the computer proceeded in a natural human-like manner rather than a stilted dialog dictated by the menus and interaction strategies of a Graphical User Interface (GUI). An intensive research effort over the summer of 2002 resulted in a prototype of an Intent Driven Interface that enabled a person to interact with computers and other IT devices by expressing their intent, using their own natural words and gestures. This interface has been incorporated into an Intelligent Total Access System (iTASK) Two patents are pending for the iTASK.
Applications of the iTASK are not limited to people with disabilities. Current research is looking at how the iTASK can be applied in education, vocational training, aging, and smart environments.
The Archimedes Project moved to the University of Hawaii in 2003 to focus on completing a range of iTASK applications and spinning them out into commercial manufacturing and marketing. Specific applications currently under development at Archimedes Hawaii include: an IDEAL Classroom for improving the way computers are used in education, with a particular emphasis on teaching math and science: Ho'alauna, an application that helps aging people to remain independent in their own homes; Smart Environments that use iTASK modules to enable occupants to control and interact with devices using natural language and gestures; and Accessible Toys, a project involving high school students in which they learn how to make electronic toys accessible to disabled children as a hands-on introduction to electronics and computers, with a goal of stimulating their interest in science and math.
Archimedes Hawaii is currently working with several business groups to spin out potential applications of the iTASK technology.