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The Stanford Interactive Workspaces Project

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Part of the Computer Supported Cooperative Work book series (CSCW)


The Stanford Interactive Workspaces project developed a set of technologies for integrating multiple devices in a co-located workspace, based on a few basic principles:

  1. 1.

    The interactions should maximize the potential for “fluency” of the users, reducing as much as possible the need to shift attention from the content of the work to the mechanism.

  2. 2.

    The integration should focus on commodity devices running existing operating systems and applications, so the workspace is not an isolated island. It should provide an “overface” that brings them together, rather than replacing the existing widely used interfaces.

  3. 3.

    The system should be loosely coupled and robust, so that failures and changes of individual elements are gracefully handled and do not disrupt the functioning of the overall workspace.

The project developed a middleware layer named iROS, based on these principles, which employed a mechanism called the Event Heap to provide robustness and dynamic loose coupling between the components. Other developments included PostBrainstorm, a large high-resolution pen-based display to facilitate group activities such as brainstorming, and a number of other tools that extended the iRoom capacities to new devices and interaction modes.


  • Display Surface
  • Primary Display
  • Software Infrastructure
  • Ubiquitous Computing Environment
  • Shared Display

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-1-84800-098-8_2
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The work described here owes a great deal to many people, both at Stanford and at our partner institutions. In addition to all of our excellent students, we want to especially thank Pat Hanrahan, Maureen Stone, John Barton, Carl Gustaf Jansson, Bjorn Pehrson, and Brian Luehrs. The research was supported by grants from Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Mitsubishi Electronics Research Lab, the Stanford Learning Lab, and most substantially by the Wallenberg Global Learning Network.

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Correspondence to Brad Johanson .

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iSpaces Systems Glossary


is a commercially available ultrasonic pen input device (from Luidia, Inc.), which is used for the Interactive Mural and for other surfaces in the iRoom.

Event Heap

is a piece of software that is the basic system “glue” that enables ease of integration, ease of development, and robustness.


is an integrated interface mechanism for menu selection and parameter entry, designed for use on large direct-contact boards such as the Interactive Mural.


is a system using iROS that allows user of the iRoom to enter pictures into the information space through an overhead camera with minimal interaction.

Interactive Mural

is a large high-resolution wall-mounted display, of which several versions were developed in our research.


is a general mechanism for producing interfaces based on service descriptions that are tailored to the devices on which the interface is to be used.


is the prototype room in the Computer Science Department at Stanford, in which we have done our primary experiments in interactive workspaces.


is the umbrella term for the iRoom Operating System – the software that integrates all parts of our interactive workspaces.


is a collection of wireless input/output devices using the Event Heap to communicate easily with programs of all kinds


is a table with a bottom-projected computer display, used for experiments with interaction on horizontal surfaces.


is an infrastructure that supports display and movement of information on multiple screens for experimenting with different affordances.


is an iROS application that allows any computer in a workspace to bring up materials on another computer by remote control


is a general term for the collection of interaction mechanisms that we provide on top of the regular interfaces to the devices in the workspace


is a software component for integrating actions of devices that use the Event Heap.

PointRight is an iROS application that lets any of the displays in a room be controlled from any laptop or pointing device


is an application of the Interactive Mural with a number of innovative interaction mechanisms designed to facilitate graphical brainstorming


is a distributed access system that makes it easy for a person or group to bring into a workspace environment materials from their online files and to transmit materials to others.


is a commercial touch-screen device for large displays (from Smart Technologies), which is used on many of our experimental display surfaces.


is an iROS application that allows lecture presenters to make flexible use of multiple screens.


is a simplified version of iROS with a minimal equipment configuration, intended for walk-up use.

Virtual Auditorium

is a system for remote education that uses interactive workspace mechanisms for the instructor node, allowing management of eye contact and attention.


is a collection of multi-modal capture & viewer components that can be reused and deployed to reflect the needs of a variety of instructional situations.


is a mechanism for managing the size and position of materials on a large screen, enabling its use as for activities such as brainstorming.

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Johanson, B., Fox, A., Winograd, T. (2009). The Stanford Interactive Workspaces Project. In: Lahlou, S. (eds) Designing User Friendly Augmented Work Environments. Computer Supported Cooperative Work. Springer, London.

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