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The cover article on virtual-reality tools for business and industry in the August issue of Mechanical Engineering magazine includes a section on Old Dominion University's Center for Advanced Engineering Environments (CAEE) and its director, Ahmed Noor.

In the portion of the article headlined "Command of Language," the CAEE and Noor are cited for their work with technologies that make it easier for people to give commands to and get information from computers.

Noor, who is the director of CAEE and ODU's William E. Lobeck Professor of Aerospace Engineering, describes the difficulties of engineering human-computer interfaces for a diverse audience. Terms he uses are "digital natives" and "digital immigrants." The natives are those who have grown up with the virtual realities of video games, whereas immigrants still remember a world of typewriters and chalkboards.

Among the technologies being developed and tested at CAEE are those that allow people to communicate orally with computers. Unlike clumsy voice-activation systems of the past, these new interfaces are much more like person-to-person communications. A user can speak a command to a computer-generated avatar-an animated, human-like figure-that responds much like a human would. If the computer has understood the command, the avatar smiles and nods. If it has not understood, the avatar frowns and displays the body language of a frustrated person.

A similar CAEE avatar can broker Internet searches and provide search-engine results in ways that are especially customized for the user.

The article in Mechanical Engineering credited CAEE and Noor with the development of "computer-based tools intended to stretch the imagination and address the subtleties of the relationship between a user and a machine."

Also noted in the article is the collaboration between CAEE and EON Reality Inc., an Irvine, Calif., producer of interactive 3-D software. EON systems provide interactive visualization environments for product demonstrations, teleconferencing and other needs of businesses, industries and government entities.

CAEE, which is located in the Peninsula Higher Education Center, launched its relationship with EON earlier this year, and the two are working together to make their cutting edge technologies more useful in real-world problem solving.

The Web site for Mechanical Engineer magazine is www.memagazine.org.

This article was posted on: August 9, 2007

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