The director of a new Center for Advanced Internet Technology Research says digital video will be the first target for his researchers. However Joe Mambretti, newly appointed to head the center, made it clear that his research goals are primarily oriented towards commercial production and only secondarily towards the sort of pure research that produced the internet in the first place. Even Sun founder Bill Joy has called for more investment in pure science as the only way to maintain an appropriate rate of technological progress (CI No 3,461). The new Center’s commercial focus is not really surprising, though, given that it is being paid for out of the coffers of Northwestern University, IBM and internet service provider Ameritech. Mambretti touts the Center’s planned work in all- optical networking and wave division multiplexing as innovative, but he isn’t about to be conducting pure research: We would actually like to have a more direct attachment to live applications, he says. So, rather than providing a hothouse where scientists can indulge their curiosity, the Center will be expected to earn its keep by expanding on work being done in corporate R&D labs. Digital video is a good example, Mambretti says: We have done some innovative experiments in DV streaming from Chicago to Washington DC. We can show full-motion full-color full-screen video across our network. It’s cute, but it’s not exactly Xerox PARC. Mambretti defends his approach to research by saying it’s not that there are no long-term projects at the center, it’s just that his backers want the best of both worlds. In practice, however, that usually means long-term research with no obvious applications gets quietly squelched. After all, what has industry ever gained from pure science – other than radio, television, personal computers, the internet and a handful of other trifles?
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