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He is known within the philosophy of mind and artificial intelligence fields for his work on natural language using the SHRDLU program. SHRDLU was written in the years from 1968-70. In making the program Winograd was concerned with the problem of providing a computer with enough "understanding" to be able to use natural language. Winograd restricted the program's intellectual world to a simulated "world of toy blocks". The program could accept commands such as, "Move the blue block," and carry out the requested action using a simulated block-moving arm. The program could also respond verbally, for example, "I do not know which blue block you mean." The SHRDLU program can be viewed historically as one of the classic examples of how difficult it is for a programmer to build up a computer's semantic memory by hand and how limited or "brittle" such programs are.
Prof. Winograd left the Artificial Intelligence field after trying to expand the SHRDLU work in natural language understanding.
In the early 1980s, Winograd was a founding member and national president of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, a group of computer scientists concerned about nuclear weapons, SDI, and increasing participation by the U.S. Department of Defense in the field computer science.
In the early 1990s, Winograd worked on an early form of groupware after meeting up with the philosopher Fernando Flores. Their approach was based on conversation-for-action analysis. The work led to a new design perspective based on phenomenology.
In general, Winograd's work at Stanford has focused on software design in a broader sense than software engineering. In 1991 he founded the "Project on People, Computers and Design" in order to promote teaching and research into software design. The book "Bringing Design to Software" describes some of this work. His thesis is that software design is a distinct activity from both analysis and programming, but it should be informed by both, as well as by design practices in other professions (textile design, industrial design, etc).
Starting in 1995, Winograd served as adviser to Stanford PhD student Larry Page, who was working on a research project involving web search. In 1998, Page took a leave of absence from Stanford to co-found Google. In 2002, Winograd took a sabbatical from teaching and spent some time at Google as a visiting researcher. There, he studied the intersection of theory and practice of human-computer interaction.
Recently, Winograd has continued to research collaborative computing, including uses of ubiquitous computing in collaborative work.
Today, Winograd continues to do research at Stanford and teach classes and seminars in human-computer interaction, including CS 147, Introduction to Human-Computer Interaction.
Books by Terry Winograd
- Understanding Natural Language
- Language As A Cognitive Process, Volume 1, Syntax
- Understanding Computers and Cognition: A New Foundation for Design (with Flores)
- Bringing Design to Software (editor)
- Usability: Turning Technologies into Tools
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