November 13, 1996
Innovative Computer Firm Plans to Spin Off Three New Companies
By JOHN MARKOFF
PALO ALTO, Calif. -- The Interval Research Corporation, the secretive computer organization created four years ago by the Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, plans to announce three spinoffs on Wednesday.
The start-up companies would be the first attempts at a market payoff from Mr. Allen's $100 million investment in Interval, which he set up to seek fresh approaches to computer-industry product development.
The spinoffs, all of which will be based here in Silicon Valley, are Carnelian Inc., an Internet publisher; Electric Planet, a designer of role-playing software games for children, and Purple Moon, a creator of interactive media programs aimed at girls aged 7 to 12..
When Interval was founded in 1992 by Mr. Allen and David Liddle, a computer scientist and longtime industry executive, Mr. Allen said he was financing a research effort to tap into the same kind of creativity that led to the invention of the personal computer at the Xerox Corporation's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) during the 1970's, when Mr. Liddle was a research scientist there.
Xerox PARC was responsible for much of the original technological vision that has formed today's computer industry. But more recently, Mr. Allen and other computer industry executives have lamented that the mature computer industry is unable to think past the design constraints of today's desktop computers.
In an interview at Interval's headquarters here, just south of the Stanford University campus. Mr. Allen said Interval's three new spinoffs were in keeping with his decadelong attempt to reinvent the future.
"We've made tremendous progress," he said. "These are the first few seedlings that are getting planted."
He said that Interval, which employs more than 150 hardware designers, programmers, social scientists and artists, had tried to look beyond immediate business markets, including the Internet.
"Everyone out there is doing things in a one- to three-year time frame, and so we're trying not to do that," Mr. Allen said.
Mr. Allen said he would provide seed funds for each of the new companies, but added that the start-ups would also try to find venture capital support in the next several months.
Carnelian, which will be based in Mountain View, plans to supply software systems for Internet publishers, drawing on research conducted at Interval that has explored the role of software agents in locating and retrieving information.
Electric Planet (formerly Ogopogo Studios), to be situated in Palo Alto, will focus on children's games using Interval-developed technology that attempts to break the tether of the keyboard, mouse and computer screen. Electric Planet's goal is to extend the ongoing trend toward more direct and intuitive communication between consumers and technology. The company is commited to developing advanced technology that leads to unencumbered input from real people, and that moves beyond the conventional functions and restrictions of today's point-and-click computer input experiences.
Purple Moon, which will be based in San Mateo, will develop software titles that Mr. Liddle says will go beyond traditional stereotypes about what girls are interested in.
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- Interval Research Corporation
- Electric Planet
- Electric Carnival at Lollapalooza '94, presented by Interval Research Corp.
- Interval Research Corporation's Soundscapes project.
- Rouen Revisited: An interactive art installation by Golan Levin (Interval Research Corporation) and Paul Debevec (University of California at Berkeley).
Copyright 1996 The New York Times Company