Research: Extending its Reach- Northwest- May 2004
Legislation last year paved the way for the institute to step out from under the University of West Florida's control and become an independent research institution with a statewide reach. The research center, which focuses on human-centered computing, has followed through by re-creating itself as a non-profit, public benefit corporation.
IHMC -- being renamed the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition -- was founded 14 years ago by computer scientists Ken Ford, now director, and Alberto Cañas, associate director, to create machines that help humans think and work better. "We want to understand human cognition well enough to know how to leverage and extend it by machine cognition," says Ford, who also serves on the National Science Board.
Approximately 115 researchers and staff, recruited to Florida from across the nation and abroad, work at the institute. They share a renovated Spanish architectural style building in the city's historic downtown. The institute also has offices in California's Silicon Valley.
The 30 to 40 projects under way, nearly all federally funded, include a robotic, free-floating "personal satellite assistant" for space missions; an animated computer character named Chester that dispenses advice on medications -- Chester's a pill, of course; a revamped cockpit display, called OZ, to guide pilots; and CmapTools, a new graphic way to represent knowledge. Some projects already are years in the making; most won't mature anytime soon. But OZ and CmapTools are patented and ready for commercialization.
Ford says the chief advantage stemming from the institute's new corporate status is "entrepreneurial flexibility" -- a heightened ability to enter innovative research agreements, license technology to corporations, gain new affiliations with other Florida universities and recruit the best scientists.
Other observers see additional benefits: "It will allow the state to attract more private and federal contracts," says K.C. Clark, a member of the UWF board of trustees and vice president of Heritage Asset Management in St. Petersburg. It can also compete better for grant money, says longtime NASA executive and UWF trustee JoAnn Morgan, of Geneva: "This will allow IHMC to be very nimble and optimize techniques to the benefit of the customer."
State Rep. Allan Bense, R-Panama City, likes the economic development potential associated with the spinoff. The move, he says, "will position a powerful engine for innovation and economic development in the heart of Pensacola's increasingly vibrant downtown. This concept should be seen as a model."
IN THE NEWS
Dixie County -- Three condominium projects with more than 600 units are under construction or promised. The projects, all with waterfront views, are at Jena, Horseshoe Beach and Suwannee.
Escambia County -- County voters have turned down a proposal for a charter government for the fourth time. The "no" vote captured 61% of the ballots, a 10,000-vote margin. In 1995, the proposal lost by just 56 votes. Supporters say they're not likely to raise the issue again soon.
FLORIDA TRENDLINE?TRAFFICDanger Ahead
On average, there are 704 traffic accidents in Florida a day, according to the 2003 Florida Department of Transportation Factbook. Other facts:Florida Traffic Accident Statistics*Traffic crashes256,169Fatalities3,013Injuries234,600Alcohol-related24,411Pedestrians killed510Bicyclists killed107Motorcyclists killed252*Latest figures available for 2001Niceville -- Okaloosa-Walton Community College expects the Legislature to approve its name change to Okaloosa-Walton College this session -- to reflect its new status as a baccalaureate-awarding institution. The 40-year-old school will launch a bachelor's of applied science degree program in project and acquisitions management in August and begin a joint bachelor's of science program in nursing with the University of West Florida this fall.
Okaloosa County -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, after a two-year, $200,000 study, determined that it's feasible to build a dam on the Yellow River near Milligan, although there are environmental hurdles and more studies to conduct. A grass-roots committee from the Crestview area, concerned over future water supply, originated the idea several years ago. The Floridan Aquifer won't be sufficient to meet needs by 2020, County Commissioner Jackie Burkett says.
Panama City -- Airport authority officials will proceed with the planning process for relocating the Panama City-Bay County International Airport despite a non-binding vote in March against the idea. The authority will decide whether to begin construction on donated St. Joe Co. land after it's conducted environmental impact studies.
Panama City Beach -- St. Joe Co. (NYSE-JOE) is adding 24 acres to its plans for Pier Park. The company is buying back the parcel it sold last summer to Quality Centers, which was planning an outlet mall. With the repurchase, St. Joe will own all 140 commercial acres in the 287-acre park development. The public-private venture will combine recreation, entertainment and shopping.
Pensacola -- Fortune magazine chose Pensacola as one of the country's three best markets for investing in residential real estate -- along with Reno, Nev., and Phoenix. In its March 22 issue, the magazine cited healthy employment, rapid population growth and reasonable home prices. The median price of a home in Pensacola is $116,400.
Former University of West Florida President Morris Marx has received one of Japan's highest honors, Emperor Akihito's Order of the Rising Sun award, for his work over nearly two decades to foster relationships between Americans and the Japanese. UWF during Marx's tenure established a partnership with the Jikei College Group in Japan and a student exchange program. UWF also is building a Japan House on campus, opening in June, to enhance international programs.
Port St. Joe -- Gulf County leaders are talking to Sacred Heart Health Systems of Pensacola about the possibility of building a medical facility after a deal by orthopedic surgeon Alfred Bonati to buy Gulf Pines Hospital fell apart. Gulf Pines is operating under bankruptcy court protection.
Tallahassee -- Leon County officials are challenging a city plan to move forward with redevelopment in a newly created downtown district. County commissioners sued to stop the revitalization project, saying the city didn't obtain county permission and that loss of county property-tax revenue could amount to $100 million over the next 30 years.