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CNET Conversations: What's next from the people who invented the PC?
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CNET Conversations: What's next from the people who invented the PC?

6:22 /

Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center is known for its almost eerie capability to be working on what's next before most other companies can see it. Xerox CTO Sophie Vandebroek needs to keep that happening.

-Xerox is one of the giants of research and development. Their work is woven through the story of technology over the last 50 years. They pioneered personal computing, networking, natural language processing, and of course, copying and laser printing. I grew up a couple of miles from their Palo Alto Research Center or PARC. And in a valley jam with the world's best engineers, it was revered. Recently, I went back to the old stomping grounds to meet up with their CTO, Sophie Vandebroek, and see what's next. -The best way to predict the future is to invent it and to create it. And that's what we'll continue to do. PARC is in the business of innovation. -PARC was set up by Xerox in 1970 in a burgeoning Silicon Valley, thousands of miles from company headquarters in Rochester, New York. In every sense, it was a team apart, and within two years, they were onto something big, the Alto, which many called the first personal computer. -Good morning. -Good morning. -Good morning. -You come into your office, grab a cup of coffee. -Morning Greg. -And the Xerox machine presents your morning mail on a screen. -This one looks interesting. Let's take a look at this. I think everybody on the [unk] should see this. -Push the button and the information is sent electronically just similar units around the corner or around the world. -Digital network telephony 1973. The legendary Alto personal computer, that was '77. Portable version, same year. Personal tablets, a little earlier than I bet you thought, 1992. Over there look at that, the granddaddy of the laser printer and you know about the mouse. This is a big part of the history of Silicon Valley and the history of PARC. -Up to this day, let's face it, if you see, you think copiers, but you are moving into other directions especially with a new way of medical staff, dealing with us as patients. -Uh huh. That's right. The digital nurse research project that we are doing here at PARC will enable the nurses and the doctors really have the information handy, so you as a patient don't need to bother telling over and over again what pain you have-- -Yeah. -or how you felt yesterday or-- -This is truly patient-centric. As you can see, it's this patient, it shows all of his characteristics, what kind of medicine has he taken or what needs to happen today,-- -Yeah. -what are the lab results. -This unit on the wall is able to tell when a particular nurse, not just any nurse, but-- -Yes. -but whoever ID this is-- -Yes. -has entered the room-- -Yes. -and pull up the relevant information. -All about the patient and what needs to happen today, what are the lab results. -Urgent things not to do-- -Yes, yes. -or appear. -We have specialists that have work practice expertise that go in the hospital and lift with the nurses for extended amount of time and really see what was the patient's challenges, what really upset them-- -Uh huh. -what-- what upset the nurse is the fact that they have to spend so much time away from the bedside, away from dealing with actual patient which is really what they love to do. -They found that nurses spend only about 30% of their time taking care of you and 70% doing routine chores like paperwork and filling medications. With their digital nurse project, PARC team thinks it could flip that ratio. -But it clearly will make a huge impact to the patient. -Yeah. -So the hospitals have really been opening their doors. I mean, they wanna innovate. They wanna be able to figure out how do I save cost in my hospital. -Another line of work for PARC in the medical field is heart monitoring that is not only wireless, but is actually contactless. -We are doing experiments today in a neonatal hospital in India. Their skins are very fragile, very sensitive-- -Yeah, yeah. -and so you don't wanna keep putting probes on baby skins. -Oh yeah. -So our researchers or experts in image processing because of the decades of expertise making amazing images that were used to print -Yeah. -are now using their expertise to remotely monitor the signals coming out. It is a visual technology-- -To monitor a heart that you can't even see. -Yes, that's correct. And then they can measure remotely the-- the heartbeat and also the-- the temperature. We're doing the experiment in the hospital now, but it's gonna make a huge impact if indeed we can deploy that and many more babies that can benefit through this technology. -Hopefully, you'll never come into contact with PARC's medical technology, but I bet you could use some help parking your car. I was impressed by the smarts that they're preparing to put into dumb meters and spaces. -On a typical day, 30% of the traffic in a city is because people are looking for a parking slot. -And here are some examples of-- of what you found. One of them is to take our driveways or curb cuts-- -Yes, yes, yes. -as they are known and to turn those into the possible parking inventory. -So what we found out is that, in 49%, almost half of these situations, they will never drive a car into the parking drive. -No, it's full of junk-- -It's full of junk. It's a-- -or you've got your mother-in-law living down there. -That's why. So why not provide extra 50% more parking space. -And I love this meter here. This-- This-- This mark up of a meter that will be tied to a-- -A service. -A cloud service. -A web based service that you run in the cloud where you're going into the city tonight for some event,-- -Uh huh. -you can log in. The software will tell you where the closest free parking spot is during the time that you're interested to park. -Yup. -You pay for it at home and then you drive and the parking spot is empty waiting for you. Today, we are working with-- talking with many cities. They're very, very interested in this concept, a less frustrated driver, much easier flow of traffic through the city, less pollution, greener cities. I mean it just makes-- -Yeah. -a lot of sense. -PARC is one of, maybe, a handful of companies that can say it's in the business of breakthroughs and not elicit laughs. I also think PARC is notable in the way it combines deep technology with the study of how people work, heal, or just park their car and that allows them to create applied technology. That can move things forward.

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