MIT Project Oxygen Collaboration

Computers support human-to-human collaboration across space and time. They help busy people get together for discussions and decisions, track their interactions, manage the flow of information among them, and document their decisions and the rationale behind them. Computers help us get together without annoying us with constant interruptions. Acting as personal assistants, they know when we are willing to be interrupted. When we want privacy, they intercept all but the most urgent (as defined by us) attempts to reach us. When we are willing to be interrupted, they know how best to get our attention in ways appropriate to the location and task in which we are currently engaged; they announce a visitor's presence by projecting a face on a display or sounding a gentle audio alert according to our preferences, waiting for an acknowledgment, and providing a gentle reminder if we do not appear to notice. They help us initiate impromptu conferences by contacting other personal assistants to see who can be interrupted to join a conversation. And they provide records and summaries of our collaborations by automatically recording speech and video fragments, linking them to the materials and issues being discussed, and indexing them for future retrieval.

The collaboration subsystem uses the knowledge access subsystem and the automation subsystem to support collaboration. The collaboration subsystem adds to the "semantic web" of the knowledge access subsystem by recording the context of human-to-human interactions. It informs the automation and knowledge access subsystems when we are engaged in a collaborative task so that the responses of these subsystems can be tailored appropriately to all those participating in the task.

Maintaining collaboration context
The collaboration subsystem uses the individualized knowledge access subsystem to represent and acquire information about human interactions, for example, by using the vision subsystem to determine who is present at a discussion and to observe physical gestures, by using the spoken language subsystem to track what people say to each other, and by observing human interactions with software applications. The collaboration subsystem remembers how a group arranges its workspace, and it creates virtual work places for distributed groups. It maintains the context of each collaborative group in an individualized knowledge database, so that it can be recalled to continue the discussion at a future time or in another place. Automated observers track features of interest to the collaboration and add to the knowledge database. Semantic links in the database maintain the history of the discussion and identify issues, alternative courses of action, arguments for and against each alternative, and resolutions to pursue particular alternatives. Human input helps guide the indexing process, by identifying critical decisions and linking them to the rationale behind them.

Automating collaborative tasks
The collaboration subsystem uses the automation subsystem, together with Bayesian techniques for analysis and knowledge-based techniques for process management, to act as a coordinator and mediate interactions among members of a collaborative team. It knows the interests, organizational roles, and skills of all team members, and it understands the application domain within which the team functions. For example, it tracks action items within the group and dependencies with other groups, retrieving relevant information and bringing it to the attention of the most appropriate individuals. The collaboration system plays the role of an active participant, noticing tasks that need to be undertaken, noticing when information required for those tasks has been developed, and making conclusions when appropriate.

Oxygen Today

MeetingView is a tool that innocuously records the progress of a meeting in an Intelligent Room and then shows its content in a manner that encapsulates the format of the meeting while providing tools that facilitate in analysis. (Howard Shrobe, Project AIRE)

Annotated Web document Annotea is an open RDF infrastructure for shared Web annotations, which are external to the documents and are stored in one or more annotation servers. Annotations are statements about Web documents made by their authors or by third parties, with or without the author's knowledge. Everyone having access to an annotation server can consult the annotations associated with a given document and add their own annotations. (Ralph Swick, World Wide Web Consortium)

ASSIST is a computer-based sketching environment that feels as natural as sketching on paper, but, unlike paper, understands a mechanical engineer's sketch as it is drawn. ASSIST makes it possible for people involved in design to sketch, gesture, and talk about their ideas, and for a computer system to understand their messy feehand sketches, their casual gestures, and the fragmentary utterances that are part and parcel of such interaction. (Randall Davis, Design Rationale Group)