Precarn to push intelligent systems at Canadian conference

JUNE 2--Leaders in the development and application of intelligent systems will unveil how advances in artificial intelligence, robotics, and virtual reality are improving the lives of Canadians at the 11th Annual Canadian Conference on Intelligent Systems (Ottawa, ON, Canada; June 4-5).

JUNE 2--Leaders in the development and application of intelligent systems will unveil how advances in artificial intelligence, robotics, and virtual reality are improving the lives of Canadians at the 11th Annual Canadian Conference on Intelligent Systems (Ottawa, ON, Canada; June 4-5). From software that optimizes the performance of a car's engine, to 'haptic' computers that will one day allow e-commerce shoppers to 'feel' merchandise before buying, to robots that deliver key business and consumer applications, the event will demonstrate how intelligent systems are making inroads into a wider range of industries than ever before.

"Over the past 13 years, the Canadian intelligent-systems sector has grown from 24 firms conducting research projects to an estimated 300 companies employing 25,000 people," said Anthony T. Eyton, president of Precarn Incorporated and director of the Institute For Robotics And Intelligent Systems (IRIS), co-organizers of the conference.

"That growth is expected to continue in areas from resources and manufacturing to health care and entertainment," Eyton added, explaining that Precarn has expanded its reach to include more small business and associate members. "Our goal is to broaden the growth of intelligent systems in the small- to mid-sized business sector, which can gain major benefit from new advances in research, by supporting the ongoing development of new technologies and encouraging strategic alliances to promote their commercial use," said Eyton.

"We're changing Precarn to make it more accessible to companies of all kinds and to expand participation in the development and application of these important new technologies. We're integrating the Precarn and IRIS programs more fully to further strengthen the links we have built between universities and industry. This organization has a new look, and it will be very much in evidence at this conference," he added.

The Canadian Conference on Intelligent Systems will provide a detailed look at how businesses, researchers, and universities are working together to bridge the gap between science and everyday life. Media will be offered hands-on demonstrations of such innovative projects as

An intelligent system that is being created to optimize a car engine's performance when it uses natural gas or innovative fuel-cell technology. More and more environmentally conscious consumers today are looking for alternative ways to power their cars. The software created by this team of researchers is able to distinguish which fuel is used and adjust accordingly, including controlling how the engine sparks and how fuel is delivered.

A display of 'haptic' technology, which allows people to 'feel' images on their computer screen by rubbing their fingers over an object. Media will have the opportunity to try out the latest developments in this technology, which has potential applications including helping physicians to analyze and manipulate complex medical images, and enabling Internet shoppers to "touch' merchandise on the screen before making their purchases.

Computers that have 'life-like behaviors' that enhance a virtual experience. Users, for example, can manipulate shapes of objects on a screen with their hands (such as poking a finger in a mound of bread dough and leaving an indentation) and distinguish differences in surface textures using sound (for example, a rubber ball hitting a tin roof sounds differently than a stone hitting a tin roof). Applications of this technology include computer animation, computer games, e-commerce and the creation of virtual environments.

Precarn Incorporated is a member-owned, not-for-profit industrial consortium supporting the development of intelligent-systems technologies. With support from Industry Canada, other federal departments, and provincial government agencies, Precarn funds, coordinates, and promotes collaborative research projects among students, researchers, and business to improve the productivity and competitiveness of Canadian business. In addition to fostering greater development of the intelligent-system sector, the network also aims to help develop and retain top-notch experts in the field. Total project funding is expected to exceed $120 million between 2000 and 2005.

IRIS--the Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Systems--is a federally funded Network of Centres of Excellence (NCE) managed by Precarn. While Precarn focuses on industry-led research, IRIS has its ties in the Canadian university community, bringing together more than 100 researchers and 120 graduate students in 23 universities. The program currently has 19 projects underway within a variety of sectors such as natural resources, manufacturing, health care, and information technology. As a direct result of IRIS-supported research, 23 high-technology start-up companies have been launched that still exist today.

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