Computing Community Consortium (CCC)
Computing Research Policy Blog
Back to January 2006 CRN Table
<< Back to
Labs and Centers Articles homepage
[Published originally in the January 2006 edition
of Computing Research News, Vol. 18/No. 1]
Computing Research at SRI International
By William S. Mark
This is another in a series of CRN articles describing the activities of
CRA’s industry laboratory members. Others are posted at:
Computer science at SRI International includes many firsts, from the first
electronic banking system to invention of the computer mouse. SRI innovations
have created new industries, billions of dollars in market value, and lasting
benefits to society.
- Personal Computing. The personal computer revolution was launched
when SRI invented the computer mouse in 1964, and in 1968 demonstrated the
concept of windows, hypertext, and videoconferencing.
- Internet. In 1969, SRI received the first logon on the ARPANET,
which was the first connection over a broad-area packet-switched computer
network. In 1976, SRI also established the first transmission across
dissimilar networks, bridging the wired ARPANET and the wireless, mobile
PRNET packet radio network located in a van. The digital link was the
beginning of internetworked computing that became the Internet.
- Wireless Communication. In 1977, SRI sent the first wireless
packetized voice message over its packet radio network and across the
ARPANET. This technology was the precursor to today’s Voice-over-Internet
Protocol (VoIP) technology.
Since its founding in 1946 as Stanford Research Institute, and becoming SRI
International in 1977, SRI has collaborated with leading universities, and
responded to research and development needs of government agencies (including
DARPA, NSF, NASA and NIH) and corporations. The Information and Computing
Sciences (ICS) Division pushes the boundaries of computing through programs
emphasizing artificial intelligence, computer science, and speech research.
Since 1966, SRI International has been at the forefront in developing
computer capabilities for intelligent behavior in complex situations.
- Robotics. From Shakey, the first autonomous mobile robot that
could reason about its own surroundings in 1972, to the Centibots, one of
the first and largest teams of coordinated robots in 2004, SRI has pioneered
advanced robotics demonstrating adaptation to new tasks, team organization,
scalability, map building, and fault-tolerant communication.
- Computer Vision. SRI is advancing techniques for
three-dimensional object recognition, location, tracking, and change
detection from a range of sensors. Recent work includes real-time visual
odometry from stereo and recognition of people and vehicles from very short
video clips taken from unmanned aerial vehicles.
- Automated Reasoning. SRI researchers have been responsible for
major developments in resolution theorem proving (PTTP and SNARK systems)
and its application to reasoning by abduction in natural-language
interpretation, to software synthesis and, more recently, to the composition
of web services.
- Planning and Control. SRI pioneered the development of generative
planning (with STRIPS, QA4 and NOAH systems) and reactive planning (with PRS).
It is currently leading the development of integrated human-machine planning
and execution monitoring methods based on the advice paradigm.
- Knowledge Acquisition. SRI is developing techniques that allow
domain experts to enter into a knowledge base information rich enough to
allow a system using it to answer questions as difficult as those found in
standard achievement tests, using declarative inference and simulation.
- Integrated Learning. SRI is leading a group of more than 20
universities and companies in the CALO project, whose objective is to
integrate learning with sensing, reasoning and action, and to evaluate it in
an intelligent assistant system that learns “in the wild.” At the end of its
second year, the CALO system demonstrated significant improvement in its
performance due to learning in a test modeled on a standard achievement
- Structured Argumentation. SRI has developed and fielded a set of
tools allowing intelligence analysts to collaborate on the design of
analysis methods, to define complex patterns for searching databases, and to
- Bioinformatics. SRI is building and distributing pathway genome
databases for more than 140 organisms, along with development and
visualization tools. Novel machine learning algorithms predict the metabolic
pathway complement of an organism from its genome. New methods based on
rewriting logic are being used for the modeling and analysis of signal
transduction and metabolic networks in mammalian cells.
SRI International’s contributions to computer science began in the early
1950s with the development of the first banking industry computer, the
Electronic Recording Method of Accounting (ERMA).
- Cyber Security. Pioneering novel methods of network intrusion
detection, protocol development and evaluation, and distributed transaction
processing, SRI develops trustworthy, secure solutions to reliable business
and personal communication needs. Since 1983, the Intrusion Detection Expert
System (IDES), Next-Generation IDES (NIDES), and EMERALD have performed
real-time monitoring of user activity on multiple target systems.
In the 1970s and 1980s, SRI pioneered security work such as PSOS (described
below), the formal methods used to analyze the Kernelized Secure Operating
System, and SeaView (a multilevel-secure database management system). SRI is
developing advanced networking with privacy controls for collaboration over
secure virtual subnets, and runs the Department of Homeland Security’s Cyber
Security Research and Development Center. Ongoing research projects address
large-scale network security, wireless security, supervisory control and data
acquisition (SCADA) system security, and privacy-enhancing technologies.
- Advanced Computing. SRI pushes the boundaries of computing
through new methods for distributed information processing, computational
logic, and formal verification of computer systems, studying the logical
foundations of scalable systems beyond the scope of traditional testing and
simulation, and building efficient tools for rigorous mechanical analysis.
With the software-implemented fault-tolerant (SIFT) avionics computer in the
1970s, SRI invented the modern approach to fault tolerance, based on Byzantine
fault models and state machine replication. In the same period, SRI’s Provably
Secure Operating System (PSOS) pioneered modern approaches to security, leading
to the concepts of noninterference and separation kernels. Both SIFT and PSOS
benefited from mechanically assisted formal verification using the Hierarchical
Development Methodology (HDM), which was one of the first formal specification
languages with theorem proving support.
SRI continues to develop tools for formal verification, and is the only group
with state-of-the-art capabilities in mechanized theorem proving (PVS
verification system), model checking (SAL suite of model checkers), and embedded
deduction (ICS solver for SAT, MaxSAT, and SMT problems). SRI and external users
of these tools apply them to challenging problems in assurance for dependable
automotive and avionics systems and for Multiple Independent Level Security
(MILS) systems, and to other applications requiring high assurance. These tools
have recently been applied to molecular and whole-organism systems biology.
SRI International is a recognized leader in advanced research in speech
technologies. SRI develops and licenses speech recognition engines and tools
packaged as software development toolkits, which developers incorporate into
their products and services.
- Speech Recognition. In the 1990s, SRI spun off market leader
Nuance Communications, Inc. (Nas:NUAN) to exploit its speech recognition
technology for automated access to information and services over the
telephone, as first used by Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. for stock quotes in
1996. Customers of Nuance are using it today for travel reservations,
product ordering, and banking. U.S. soldiers use SRI spoken translation
technology overseas. EduSpeak® software brings speaker-independent voice
recognition to education and training software. DynaSpeak® speech
recognition technology is licensed for products requiring a small footprint,
such as mobile and embedded platforms.
- Speaker ID. SRI is a pioneer in modeling speaking “style,” or
behavioral aspects of how a person talks, and integrating this information
with conventional features modeling voice characteristics. SRI’s
state-of-the-art speaker recognition uses short-term spectral features, and
high-level features estimated from patterns of prosodic events. The SRI
system has been ranked as one of the best systems on text-independent tasks
by the National Institute of Standards and Technology for the past three
- Prosody. SRI pioneered the use of “direct modeling” of prosody
(intonation, duration, energy, voice quality), using information
automatically extracted from speech audio based on the output of automatic
speech recognition. Successful applications have included automatic
punctuation and topic detection, emotion recognition, dialog act modeling,
detection of deceptive speech, and automatic speaker verification.
Distinguished Information and Computing Sciences Staff at SRI
The 170-person professional staff of SRI International’s ICS Division
includes many noted contributors to advancements that have an impact throughout
the computing world, including Fellows of the Institute of Electrical and
Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Association for Computing Machinery (ACM),
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and American
Association for Artificial Intelligence (AAAI).
Other distinctions include the 2002 National Computer System Security Award,
the 2002 Herbrand Award for contributions to Automated Reasoning, and the 2005
ACM SIGSAC Outstanding Contributions Award.
Bringing a new product or service to the marketplace requires a
collaborative, disciplined approach. SRI develops ideas into compelling
solutions to create new value for clients. We start by understanding their
important needs to form just the right team. Together, we determine an approach
to maximize return on investment.
Government agencies, commercial businesses, and private foundations turn to
SRI for solutions to important problems. SRI offers each client flexible working
relationships to meet its specialized needs. We respond to client-sponsored
research and development, technologies for license, strategic partnerships, and
new spin-off ventures. Our clients capitalize on SRI’s experience at all stages
of the value chain: basic and applied research, technology development,
prototyping, and product commercialization.
Dr. Mark (william.mark [at] sri.com) is Vice President, Information
and Computing Sciences, at SRI International (http://www.sri.com).
Copyright © 2007 Computing Research Association. All Rights
Reserved. Questions? E-mail: email@example.com.