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Teamspot Technology Now Appearing Across Campus

CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE: A Feb. 24 article, “Teamspot Technology Now Appearing Across Campus,” incorrectly identified IS&T as Information Systems and Technology. It is actually Information Services and Technology.

By Hannah Hsieh

Over the past two weeks, new wide-screen monitors have been popping up around campus. Not only do they look cool, they’re actually here for the MIT community to play with. These monitors are part of a pilot installation called Teamspot, a new technology developed at Stanford University and brought to MIT through Information Systems and Technology’s Residential Technology Initiative, which tries different experiments involving technology support for students in residence halls.

A Teamspot consists of a computer that can be wirelessly controlled through a personal laptop. By installing a small program, multiple users can connect to one Teamspot simultaneously and drive that computer, each using his own mouse and keyboard.

This technology was created to facilitate group projects and team collaboration. Users can put files on the common computer and send files to others who are also connected.

The idea is “to have a place where you can work on a common screen with quick file transfer, but still have your private space on your own computer,” said Phillip D. Long, senior strategist in Academic Computing.

ResTech is an IS&T supported proposal to try different experiments involving technology support for students in resident halls. He mentioned that the price of the Teamspots would decrease significantly once a larger market is defined, but declined to comment on the current price.

The limitation to this technology is that the Teamspot computer must have the necessary software to open the user’s file, a compatibility issue the group is working on, said Long. Teamspot is currently compatible with both Windows and Macs, and the user only needs to download a plug-in for a browser. Long said the ResTech group is advocating for Linux compatibility.

Since the technology is useful for tasks such as executive presentations, the original model for Teamspot was targeted at business schools. “We think it might have more widespread applicability than the [Stanford] group originally thought,” not only useful for collaboration in residence halls, but also in classrooms, Long said.

Teamspot originates from a Stanford University research project called iRoom, headed by Terry Winograd. The project evolved into a collection of different activities and software tools to facilitate efficient face-to-face collaboration.

One branch of that work, which later became Teamspot, focused on how to easily move among different computers that wanted to share information.

The group searched for a way to quickly share the keystrokes and mouse-clicks between computers, essentially sharing the control of one computer.

Several graduate students in the Stanford research group saw a potential for this technology in the market, and created a company called Tidebreak. This technology was brought to MIT through Long, who made Teamspot a part of the ResTech Initiative. Other projects include a Wiki server, still in a pilot phase, created especially for the Dormitory Council.