Friday, March 14, 2008

HP opens up the Lab doors

With it’s new Idea Lab, Hewlett-Packard gives outsiders a peek into their corporate research. The aim is to attract input from users, in the hope that it will speed up the companys’s innovation process.

Imagine opening your closet and immediately finding yourself face-to-face with a fire-breathing dragon, fresh from the gates of Hell. Or that you can look right through the wall of a building and see exactly where the electrical wires and water-pipe goes.

It might all be possible, using new a technology developed at HP Labs, Hewlett-Packard's corporate research organization. Called Mscapes, it imposes a virtual environment upon the real, physical one, and uses GPS-based navigation to pinpoint exactly where you are.

Mscapes is one of a number of projects that HP Labs is exhibiting in its new web site for Idea Lab, which gives visitors a hint of what the corporation’s researchers are up to. Here, you can download examples of new software, look at demos and write your comments and submit examples of your own on the site’s forums.

The Idea Lab is part of HP’s new “Open Innovation” strategy, a major component in the radical reorganization of the labs that Hewlett Packard announced last week. “We recognize that not all smart people in the world work at HP Labs,” said Prith Banerjee, head of HP Labs, during a presentation last week.

By encouraging feedback, the HP´s management hopes to encourage users and outside developers to help the company bring new innovations to market faster.

Some examples on display at the Idea Lab include new photoediting tools, mobile printing from cellphones and a service for republishing of old books on demand. The site also shows a new way of capturing and viewing small, almost undetectable details on objects.

The Idea Lab can be seen as an attempt to emulate the success of user-driven software development and user-generated content -- like Linux, MySQL, Flickr, Picasa and Facebook. If a big corporation like HP really can acheive this remains to be seen. However Mscape is already on its way to building a user community that creates its own content -- be it travels through a mysterious time-hole or a simple game where you stamp out moles (virtual ones that is).

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