Carnegie Mellon Press Release: February 12, 2004
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Press Release

Anne Watzman

For immediate release:
February 12, 2004

Carnegie Mellon and University of Karlsruhe Establish International Center for Advanced Communication Technologies

PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Karlsruhe in Germany, both ranked number one in computer science in their respective countries, have agreed to jointly establish a new International Center for Advanced Communication Technologies (InterACT).

The focus of InterACT is to support human-to-human interaction across language and cultural barriers, and to do research in pervasive multimodal and multilingual computing environments.

"We are very pleased to be collaborating with an institution as prestigious as the University of Karlsruhe," said Carnegie Mellon President Jared L. Cohon. "This is an opportunity for students and staff at each of our institutions to broaden their multinational and multicultural experience, while engaging in state-of-the-art research. We will all benefit from the relationships that are being built and the research that will be freely shared between the American and European academic and industrial communities."

"Collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University is another highlight in our international efforts to enhance the reputation of the University of Karlsruhe," said University Rector Horst Hippler. "Our new generation of academics also needs exchange with the U.S. So we are very proud of not only sending German students and scientists to America, but also being in charge of them here."

The new center combines the Interactive Systems Laboratories established and directed at both universities by Alex Waibel, who holds professorships at both institutions. For the last 12 years, Waibel has developed joint research programs between the laboratories. He has brought students together from both sides of the ocean and leveraged their expertise to forge research breakthroughs in speech-to-speech translation and multi-modal communication technologies such as gesture and handwriting recognition, eye tracking and lip reading.

"This new center provides a model to train, educate and expose students, industry staff and researchers to work, organize, communicate and manage projects that cross international boundaries," said Waibel. "In addition to enhancing students' educational and research opportunities, InterACT can work with industrial partners and sponsors in both countries and foster new relationships."

InterACT is a partner in two large research collaborations being funded by the European Union and company sponsors at $40 million. The first, called Computer in the Human Interaction Loop, or CHIL, involves pervasive computing. The other is TC-STAR, which focuses on domain-unlimited speech-to-speech translation.

InterACT researchers will also be working on the STR-DUST project‹Speech Translation for Domain Unlimited Spontaneous Communication Tasks‹funded with a $2.5-million, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation.

The goal of CHIL is to bring friendlier and more helpful computing services to society. Instead of people having to focus on the computer's needs, the computer will focus on its user, interacting like a butler hovering in the background, observing people to see what they do and anticipating their wishes.

Waibel says the TC-STAR project offers the opportunity "to really do something in speech translation. We've done more than a half-dozen projects whose vocabulary was limited to a particular domain such as travel," he said. "Now, we need to do something where we're not limited by domain anymore that will enable translation of meetings, lectures, television and telephone conversations."

InterACT is receiving funds from Carnegie Mellon, the University of Karlsruhe and the Ministry of the State of Baden-Wuerttemberg, where Karlsruhe is located, to develop the center's infrastructure and support stipends for students. Initial funding for the center and its work is $600,000 over three years with plans to extend it to five. The current research budget for the center is more than $5 million.

For more information on the InterACT center see

About the University of Karlsruhe
The University of Karlsruhe, established in 1825, is the oldest technical university in Germany with programs that emphasize practical experience. Its Computer Science Department, the first of its kind to be established in Germany, was founded in 1972. It has long been ranked number one among other such departments at universities in the German federal union. The student population at Karlsruhe is 16,000. In addition to computer science, the University of Karlsruhe boasts particular research strengths in engineering, natural and economic sciences, as well as strong programs in the humanities and social sciences. For more information, see

About Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon is a private research university with a distinctive mix of programs in computer science, robotics, engineering, the sciences, business, public policy, fine arts and the humanities. More than 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students receive an education characterized by its focus on creating and implementing solutions to solve real problems, interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation. A small faculty-to-student ratio provides an opportunity for close interaction between students and professors. While technology is pervasive on its 110-acre campus, Carnegie Mellon is also distinctive among leading research universities because of conservatory-like programs in its College of Fine Arts. For more information, visit


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