mmdd: an open meta-testbed for multimedia distributed documents

Sha Xin Wei, Stanford University

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University February 11, 1994


We describe a multimedia distributed documents system (mmdd) which manages associations of arbitrary renderable objects (text, graphics, sound, video, applications) using a hybrid object-oriented, relational database abstraction. It features author-modifiable schema, author-reconfigurable front ends, and extensibility to arbitrary media types and search methods. The mmdd was designed around the projected needs of faculty and their assistant authors, based on extensive experience with authoring multimedia simulations.

The mmdd attempts to enable authoring and navigation across environments supporting sophisticated user interface models, and does not address low-level issues such as synchronization of time-based media, or algebras of virtual media devices.

A key characteristic of the mmdd is that its atoms are not traditional documents but abstract entities. We have architected the mmdd as an open testbed in which researchers are welcome to test intelligent multimodal navigation methods and metaphors on everyday users of real corpora.


Sha Xin Wei is a staff member of the Academic Software Development group at Stanford. He studied mathematics at Harvard and Stanford, concentrating in differential geometry and variational problems associated with total curvature. He was swept into computers with the introduction of the Macintosh and the joint Apple-Stanford Faculty Authoring Project in 1984, an experiment to discover non-traditional ways of using computers in research and learning. He served as a programmer and project leader for Blas Cabrera's Physics Simulations.

One general will-o'-the-wisp pursued by Xin Wei and his colleagues in later incarnations of the FAD group was environments which could support multiple modes of analysis, simulation and communication as "transparently" as paper or chalkboard, encapsulated by the expression "intelligent blackboards." His work includes projects such as an object-oriented scientific simulation kit, an American Sign Language interactive videodisc, a Chinese course using QuickTime & WorldScript, several series of symbolic algebra + graphics notebooks for differential equations, complex analysis, elementary differential geometry, as well as a smattering of applications in fields such as virtual theater, epidemiology, demography and quantum inflationary cosmology (for Andre Linde).

Most recently he's been engaged with the problem of seeking, browsing, describing, and re-authoring digital material under multiple, flexible (author-reshapeable) interfaces.


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