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HP researchers simplify the Web for the rest of us

Researchers at the Bangalore end of HP Labs, the research arm of Hewlett Packard are putting the final touches to an Internet tool that will let lay users with no programming knowledge, 'mix-n-match' packages of Web tasks to create their own customised utilities.

The effort forms part of HP Labs' global SWAN Project -- Simplifying Web Access for the Next billion -- which aims for a radically simplifies access to lay users' Internet experience.

Bangalore -based members of the SWAN project, have addressed -- and are close to meeting -- one challenge: how can the 'rest of us' uncued Web users, create our own combos of task-based utilities, drawing on the mostly free utilities of the Web. In a privileged briefing for IndiaTechOnline, HP Labs Department Director Dr KSR Anjaneyulu and Senior Research Scientist Geetha Manjunath, unveiled details of their solution based on what they called Tasklets -- user-centered and user-defined mini tasks: they could be a forecast of tides for a fisherman; flight info for a frequent traveller; bank transaction details in the users own language... or whatever combination of information and entertainment makes sense for a user.

You can source the input from thousands of Web based resources -- most of them for free -- and you can put HP's spin on them to create customised output for your desktop or mobile - and even ask for them to be delivered any which way you like -- as 'widgets' or SMS or voice or video.

The solution is in a fairly advanced stage -- and I was able within minutes, to concoct my own cocktail of web apps and tasks, while the HP solution turned my cut-and-paste, drag- and-drop combos into the appropriate code to make the whole thing work in the way I wanted.

It is not just widgets; it is more -- much more -- than mashups. And while the final contours of the HP Labs offering might undergo some refinements, what I saw and tried out was already a startlingly use-friendly tool which will make the Web more meaningful to many of us.

A link to HP Lab India resources on SWAN:

http://www.hpl.hp.com/india/research/swan.html
and a set of relevant publications:
http://www.hpl.hp.com/india/publications/index.html#personalization