Stanford Interactive Workspaces Project

July 18, 2001 - The Event Heap, part of the iRoom infrastructure, is now available for download on our software page.

The Interactive Workspaces Project at Stanford is exploring new possibilities for people to work together in technology-rich spaces with computing and interaction devices on many different scales. It is made up of faculty and students from the areas of Graphics. Human-Computer Interaction, Networking, and Databases. We have built experimental hardware and software testbeds that include large, high-resolution wall-mounted and tabletop displays (which we call Interactive Murals and Interactive Tables), as well as small, personal mobile computing devices such as laptops and PDAs connected through a wireless LAN. Specialized input and output devices such as LCD-tablets, laser pointer trackers, microphone arrays and pan-and-tilt cameras are also present in the environment. The research builds on previous work in graphics architectures, scientific visualization, ubiquitous computing, multimodal interaction, computer-supported cooperative work, and distributed system architectures. The environment is being developed through building several applications projects, in collaboration with faculty from a number of other departments, including Civil Engineering, Medical Informatics, and the Stanford Learning Lab. In this reserach, we focus both on the new software and hardware technologies and the realities of human interaction and work in a variety of application domains.


Most of today's computing environments are designed to support the interaction between one person and one computer. The user sits at workstation or laptop, or holds a PDA, focusing on a single device at a time (even if there are several around and they are linked and synchronized). Collaboration is accomplished over the network, using email, shared files, or in some cases explicitly designed "groupware". In non-computerized work settings, on the other hand, people interact in a rich environment that includes information from many sources (paper, whiteboards, computers, physical models, etc). and are able to use these simultaneously and move among them flexibly and quickly. The few existing integrated multi-device computer environments today tend to be highly specialized and based on application-specific software.

We are designing and experimenting with multi-device, multi-user environments based on a new architecture that makes it easy to create and add new display and input devices, to move work of all kinds from one computing device to another, and to support and facilitate group interactions. In the same way that today's standard operating systems make it feasible to write single-workstation software that makes use of multiple devices and networked resources, we are constructing a higher level operating system for the world of ubiquitous computing.

We have chosen to focus our current work an augmented dedicated space (a meeting room, rather than an individual's office or home, or a tele-connected set of spaces), and to concentrate on task-oriented work (rather than entertainment, personal communication, or ambient information). In the future, it is likely that , technology of the kind we are using will become cheap enough to be part of the common living space for many people, and we anticipate that the infrastructure we are building will be put to a wider range of uses. Also we start with the recognition that the environments we build are situated in a larger context, in which people work individually at workstations, in remote locations with mobile devices, in person without computer augmentation, etc. The interactive workspace is not a replacement for these other ways of working, but an addition to them, enhancing high-information, high-interaction collaborative activities.

Experimental Facilities

We have constructed two laboratory facilities in which to pursue the research:

Supporting these physical environments are a number of software infrastructure components:

Application Projects

The technologies for interactive workspaces are being developed in conjunction with a number of application projects that have high potential to take advantage of the capabilities we are developing. In these project we are working with research groups from around the University.

Major Research Thrusts


Consultants and staff working on the project

Susan Shepard, Maureen Stone

Students working on the project

Henry Berg, Ian Buck, Francois Gumbretiere, Emre Kiciman, Manali Holankar, Greg Humphreys, Brad Johanson, Brian Lee, Kathleen Liston, Shankar Ponnekanti, Richard Salvador, Caesar Sengupta, Rito Trevino, Allison Waugh


The Interactive Workspaces project has been supported by a variety of grants and equipment donations. The scalable graphics and visualization research and the construction of the Interactive Room has been supported by the Department of Energy under the Data and Visualization Corridors program. The HCI research has been supported by Interval Research, IBM and Philips. Equipment and software donations have been provided by EFI (E-beam trackers), IBM (server machines), InFocus (projectors), Intel (server machines), Microsoft (PDAs), and ParaGraph (handwriting recognition software).


Last modified: June 1, 2000 by Shepard