UC Berkeley News
Press Release

UC Berkeley Press Release

UC Berkeley, Yahoo team up to research new Internet technologies

– The University of California, Berkeley, is teaming up with Yahoo Research Labs to launch a new laboratory to explore innovations in areas such as Internet search technology, social media and mobile media.

Marc Davis
Marc Davis

The founding director of the Yahoo Research Labs-Berkeley, which opens at a location near campus in August, will be Marc Davis, an assistant professor at UC Berkeley's School of Information Management and Systems (SIMS), where he is the director of the school's cutting-edge "Garage Cinema Research" group that focuses on creating the technology and applications that will enable daily media consumers to become daily media producers. Davis is also a co-founder of UC Berkeley's interdisciplinary Center for New Media.

Yahoo Research Labs-Berkeley is a first-of-its-kind partnership between a top public university and a leading Internet company to conduct research and explore new technologies that will support and reinforce key areas of Internet growth. One area will be search technology. Another will be social media, such as photos, video, music, audio and text, that are obtained from personal, public or community sources and then shared, referenced or remixed in ways that help foster social relations. Yet another area will be mobile media, involving mobile devices such as camera phones.

The partnership offers Yahoo access to UC Berkeley's intellectual capital, leadership and innovation, and provides UC Berkeley the ability to do new kinds of research with Yahoo and its hundreds of millions of users on a massive scale generally unavailable in academic settings, Davis said.

An added bonus, he said, is that UC Berkeley's lab researchers will be able to work simultaneously with Yahoo's product experts.

"Working with Yahoo's innovative scientists, engineers, designers and users, we will do research and create technology that combine understanding context with the power of communities, enabling us to have an even greater impact in reaching and benefiting Internet users around the world," said Davis.

He predicted that the collaboration will help establish UC Berkeley as the global leader in academic research at the intersection of media, technology and people. "By working together, Yahoo and UC Berkeley will change the future of Internet media for millions of people around the world," said Davis.

Plans call for involving other UC Berkeley faculty and students too, as the partnership selects specific research projects and moves forward.

Jeff Weiner, Yahoo's senior vice president for search and the marketplace, said the collaboration offers great opportunities to expand the scope of the company's research into social media, mobile media and search technology.

He said that the research area that Davis oversees represents a great example of relevant and innovative applications enabled by the intersection of social and mobile media. Yahoo is looking forward to the partnership to further the company's research and development, Weiner said, and to build the next generation of search applications and core technologies "that will enable people to find, use, share and expand information and content, no matter where they are."

"When you bring together the world's leading Internet company and one of the world's top academic institutions, the possibilities are endless," said Usama Fayyad, Yahoo's senior vice president and chief data officer.

AnnaLee Saxenian, dean of SIMS, called Yahoo Research Labs-Berkeley "an exciting and open framework for collaboration" that provides research possibilities not possible at UC Berkeley alone, largely because of the huge investments required in terms of equipment and technology.

"The lab offers unique opportunities for SIMS faculty and students, who bring a mix of social, technical and design capabilities to the challenge of developing new information systems and content," she added.

An advisory committee of Yahoo and UC Berkeley representatives will oversee the partnership. The UC Berkeley Industry Alliances Office will oversee the administrative components of the agreement for faculty, students and staff.

The lab is an investment in fundamentally new ways of doing research that will result in the creation of "sociotechnical" systems, Davis said. These systems "intimately connect people, media and technology together on a large scale in order to address new challenges and opportunities that neither people nor machines can solve alone," he said. "How hundreds of millions of people will communicate, create, play and learn together on the future internet can be influenced by the research we will do at Yahoo Research Labs-Berkeley," said Davis.

The partnership is initially set to operate for five years.

Davis will be on leave for the next academic year while running the lab.

Dana Bostrom, associate director of the Industry Alliances Office, characterized Yahoo Research Labs-Berkeley as of one of various types of collaborations that UC Berkeley has undertaken with industrial partners. Bostrom noted that Yahoo's investment in a facility near campus is unusual, and demonstrates a strong desire for collaboration.

The framework of the UC Berkeley and Yahoo pact gives all parties certain rights to intellectual property developed in the lab, and "provides an exclusive, time-limited option so that Yahoo will have first crack at what is developed in the new research facility," she said.

Bostrom said that most intellectual property developed at the lab will be shared jointly between UC Berkeley and Yahoo.

The university has a wide range of research interests and capabilities, she said, and the partnership does not preclude UC Berkeley from entering into new agreements with other companies. But Bostrom said UC Berkeley is eager to work with companies that value interactions with its faculty and students, and sees such collaborations as important in extending its missions of education and public service.