No more super secret work for HP Labs

March 6, 2008 11:52:21 PM PST
It was a big day for Palo Alto's Hewlett-Packard. The company that 70 years ago helped create Silicon Valley, has shaken up its fabled research lab.

Palo Alto is home to a garage considered the birthplace of Silicon Valley. It's a garage where David Packard and Bill Hewett engineered the first audio oscilloscope.

Seventy years later, HP Labs has 600 research scientists developing the next generation of technology. One example is a program called Face Bubble that sorts digital photos by recognizing the faces in them.

"So now if I pick the mother, it will go to show all the pictures where it found mother and daughter appearing together," says HP Product Manager Dan Tretter.

HP is shaking up its lab to focus on 20 to 30 of the most promising projects. It used to have as many as 150 projects in the works. It will post its projects online to invite partnerships and collaboration with other researchers and even consumers. The days of super secret lab work are over.

"Whether they're other scientists, other researchers, there's universities or it's you in your home actually demo'ing online some of these research labsm will be incredibly important for the insight they're going to provide," says HP Senior VP and Chief Marketing Officer Michael Mendehall.

HP says this will speed up the process of bringing new ideas to market.

"This is a big deal to us. With the explosion of digital content that you've heard about, the entire I.T. ecosystem that will be supporting that content gives us tremendous opportunity to make innovation that's meaningful," says HP Chairman and CEO Mark Hurd.

HP would like to see more innovation woven into our daily lives. There are ovens that will keep meat refrigerated until it's time to roast them hours later. There are servers that will find digital content on multiple devices and play them. These are not prototypes. They're here, now.

"Consumer electronics -- that's C and E -- should begin to stand for connected entertainment," says HP Communications Manager Karen Reynolds.

HP believes the future is technology that anticipates your needs, such as the service called Cloud View. Tell it you're flying to Rome and it will automatically deliver local weather, traffic and driving directions without asking.

HP says pushing technology innovation will be a big challenge. More information will be created over the next five years than currently exists today.