MIT officials think Project Oxygen eventually could spawn as many as a dozen businesses. Some of its technologies will be licensed by the Oxygen Alliance partners and incorporated into their products, while others could be licensed by student researchers as springboards for start-up companies. One start-up already has been launched to manufacture crickets, while computer-maker Hewlett- Packard has begun to employ audio compression technology, developed in the early years of Project Oxygen, in new versions of its iPAC pocket computers.
Like HP and other sponsors, Nokia tracks the progress of Project Oxygen while pursuing parallel research in its own labs, in Finland and in Burlington. "This is a benchmark to our own work," said Juha Yla-Jaaski, the Nokia director of strategic planning in Helsinki. "The overall goals of Nokia and Oxygen are very much aligned." The voice control and user interfaces emerging from Oxygen, for example, could find their way into the next generation of Nokia cellphones.
Some of MIT's business sponsors have assigned representatives to work with Project Oxygen researchers, while others dispatch their own researchers to Cambridge for a few months at a time. Those with Boston-area labs, such as HP and Nokia, can use those operations to monitor the project. For almost all of them, Project Oxygen represents their single largest academic research collaboration. "You write one big check and hope everything works out," [Frederick Kitson] said.