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The Future of Text research project @ WAIS


Our research is based on the premise that text is–and always has been–multidimensional–and environments alternatively referred to as VR, AR and so on–will allow us to truly unlock this multidimensionality, and that AI can also be harnessed in these brave new worlds.

Old human-computer interaction paradigms are breaking down and bold approaches across a wide field of interest are required to realise this potential for knowledge work. The work we do is therefore based on dialogue, experiments and infrastructure work.

  • Dialogue : Symposium & Publications. With the deep appreciation for wide dialogue to extend our thinking, we host an annual symposium, with Internet co-inventor Vint Cerf as co-host, a weekly recorded discussion series and publish an annual series of books on the future of text. Contributors include Alan Kay, Andy Matuschak & Michael Nielsen, Annie Murphy Paul, Andries Van Dam, Anne-Laure Le Cunff, Belinda Barnet, Ben Shneiderman, Cynthia Haynes & Jan Rune Holmevik , Deena Larsen, Dave Winer, David De Roure, Denise Schmandt-Besserat, Doc Searls,  Don Norman, Douglas Crockford, Esther Dyson, Esther Wojcicki, Jaron Lanier, Ken Perlin, Kari Kraus & Matthew Kirschenbaum, Keith Houston, Mark Bernstein, Matt Mullenweg, Richard Saul Wurman, Stephen Fry, Ted Nelson, Tom Standage, Tor Nørretranders, Dame Wendy Hall and Yiliu Shen-Burke
  • Experiments : Software Development. With the basic operating principle that to truly understand the potential of working in richly interactive environments we need to experiment to experience it, we prototype software and produce software for wider use. The software we have produced includes the macOS Author word processor, the Reader PDF viewer and web interactions
  • Infrastructure : Metadata. Since we can’t interact with something we don’t have available, we also work on infrastructure, particularly for metadata, including our own approach of Visual-Meta


Who We Are

The Lab director is Frode Alexander Hegland, working with professors Les Carr & David Millard.

Our advisors are Andreea Ion Cojocaru, architect in VR & physical spaces, Barbara Tversky, author of ‘Mind in Motion’, Bob Stein, co-founder of The Voyager Company the first commercial multimedia CD-ROM publisher, Dene Grigar, former President of the Electronic Literature Organization, Howard Rheingold, author of ‘Tools for Thought’ and educator, Ismail Serageldin, founder of the Modern Library of Alexandria, Jane Yellowlees Douglas, pioneer author & scholar of hypertext fiction, Livia Polanyi, theoretical linguist & Consulting Professor of Linguistics at Stanford University and Vint Cerf, co-inventor of the Internet.

Adam Cheyer, inventor of Siri writes: “Frode Hegland’s Augmented Text tools are essential components for textual thought productivity. These tools espouse many of the philosophies of Doug Engelbart, one of the greatest thinkers in computer science history.”

Bruce Horn, programmer of the original Finder in the original Macintosh, and now at Apple working on Siri: “There have been few advances in this area since the invention of the word processor, and none as well thought-out or accessible as Author and the accompanying Reader and Liquid apps.”

We are focused on the future of text and how we can interact with–& through–text. The research project director’s mentor Doug Engelbart called this ‘symbol manipulation’ and Hegland believes the potential to augment text interactions and thus how we think and communicate, is vast. This is not to the exclusion of other media, it is in concert with other media. The core organising principle behind all of the work is simply that “perception is highly active”, as succinctly stated by neuroscientist Gregory Hickok[1].



The project work was presented in a BBC Interview with Frode Hegland and Vint Cerf.





the future of text–the future of thought–is richly multidimensional