SRI International, founded as Stanford Research Institute, is one of the world's largest contract research institutes. Based in the United States, the trustees of Stanford University established it in 1946 as a center of innovation to support economic development in the region. It was later incorporated as an independent non-profit organization under U.S. and California laws. SRI's headquarters are in Menlo Park, California, near the Stanford University campus. Curtis Carlson, Ph.D., is SRI's president and CEO. Year 2008 revenue for SRI, including its subsidiary, Sarnoff Corporation, was approximately $485 million. As of 2009, SRI and Sarnoff employ about 2,000 staff members combined.
SRI's mission is discovery and the application of science and technology for knowledge, commerce, prosperity, and peace.
SRI performs client-sponsored research and development for government agencies, commercial businesses, and private foundations. It also licenses its technologies, forms strategic partnerships, and creates spin-off companies.
SRI's focus areas include communications and networks, computing, economic development and science and technology policy, education, energy and the environment, engineering systems, pharmaceuticals and health sciences, homeland security and national defense, materials and structures, and robotics.
In 1970, SRI formally separated from Stanford University and, in 1977, became known as SRI International. The separation was a belated response to Vietnam war protesters at Stanford University who believed that SRI's DARPA-funded work was essentially making the university part of the military-industrial complex.
In the 1970s, SRI undertook a number of research projects outside of the scientific mainstream, including research into expanded human consciousness and claims of extraordinary human abilities such as those attributed to celebrity psychic Uri Geller (see below).
The following is a summary of some important SRI research projects.
In 1948, SRI began research and consultation with the petroleum company Chevron to develop an artificial substitute for tallow and coconut oil used in making soaps. SRI's investigation confirmed the potential of dodecyl benzene as a suitable replacement, and later Procter & Gamble used the substance as the basis of their successful laundry detergent, Tide.
In the early 1950s, Walt and Roy Disney sought SRI's advice regarding a small planned amusement park called Disneyland which they intended to build in Burbank, California. SRI provided them information on such topics as location, attendance patterns, and economic feasibility. SRI also selected a much larger site, in Anaheim, and prepared reports covering many aspects of operation. They also provided on-site administrative support and continued an advisory role for some time as the park expanded.
In 1952, the Technicolor Corporation contracted with SRI to develop a near-instantaneous electro-optical alternative to the manual process of timing during film copying. In 1959, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented the Scientific and Engineering Award jointly to SRI and the Technicolor Corporation for their work on the design and development of the Technicolor electronic printing timer which greatly benefited the motion picture industry.
In 1954, Southern Pacific asked SRI to investigate ways of reducing damage during rail freight shipments by mitigating shock to railroad box cars. This investigation led to the development of the Hydra-Cushion technology, which remains standard today.
In the 1950s, SRI worked under the direction of the Bank of America to develop ERMA (Electronic Recording Machine, Accounting), and magnetic ink character recognition (MICR) which as of 2007 is still the industry standard in automated check processing. The ERMA project was led by computer scientist Jerre Noe, who was at the time SRI's Assistant Director of Engineering.
Doug Engelbart was the primary force behind the design and development of the oN-Line System, or NLS. He founded SRI's Augmentation Research Center (ARC), and his team there developed the original versions of many modern computer-human interface elements. These included: bit-mapped displays, collaboration software, hypertext, and precursors to the graphical user interface including the computer mouse. As a pioneer of human-computer interaction, Engelbart is arguably SRI's most notable alumnus. He was awarded the National Medal of Technology in 2000.
From 1966 through 1972, SRI's Artificial Intelligence Center developed the first mobile robot to reason about its actions. Named "Shakey", the robot had a television camera, a triangulating range finder, and bump sensors. Shakey the Robot used software for perception, world-modeling, and acting. The Artificial Intelligence Center marked its 40th anniversary in 2006.
Hewitt Crane and his colleagues developed the world's first all-magnetic digital computer,, based upon extensions to magnetic core memories. The technology was licensed to AMP, who then used the technology to build specialized computers for controlling tracks in the New York City subway and on railroad switching yards.
In 1969, ARPANET, the world's first electronic computer network, was established on October 29 between nodes at Leonard Kleinrock's lab at UCLA and Douglas Engelbart's lab at SRI. Interface Message Processors at both sites served as the backbone of the first Internet.
In the 1970s, SRI developed other technologies, including packet-switched radio (precursor to wireless networking), over-the-horizon radar, Deafnet, malaria treatments, vacuum microelectronics, laser photocoagulation (a treatment for some eye maladies), and software-implemented fault tolerance.
In 1972, Dr. Harold E. Puthoff, then a researcher at SRI, put forth proposals to study quantum mechanics in life processes. This resulted in a series of studies in parapsychology, including the now controversial remote viewing programs that have been discontinued and partially declassified (see below).
In the late 1970s social scientist and consumer futurist Arnold Mitchell created the Values and Lifestyles psychographic methodology (VALS) to explain changing US values and lifestyles. VALS was formally inaugurated as an SRI International product in 1978 and was later cited by Advertising Age as "one of the ten top market research breakthroughs of the 1980s."
In the 1980s, SRI developed, among other things, Zylon, stealth technologies, improvements to ultrasound imaging, two-dimensional laser fluorescence imaging, a multimedia electronic mail system, intrusion detection expert systems, theory of non-interference in computer security, a multilevel secure (MLS) relational database system called Seaview, LaTeX, and order-sorted algebra. On January 17, 1986, SRI.com became the 8th registered ".com" domain. In the late 1980s and early 1990s the Artificial Intelligence Center developed the Procedural Reasoning System (PRS) that launched the field of BDI-based Intelligent agents.
In the 1990s, SRI developed, among other things, ground- and foliage-penetrating radar, Open Agent Architecture (OAA), dry-powder drugs, remote surgery (aka telerobotic surgery), bio-agent detection using upconverting phosphor technology, an easy-clean oven surface, the cancer drug Tirapazamine (now in clinical trials), ammonium dinitramide (ADN) - a novel environmentally benign oxidizer, network intrusion detection system, the Maude system (a declarative software language), the INCON and REDDE command and control system for the U.S. military, IGRS (integrated GPS radio system), an advanced military personnel and vehicle tracking system, natural language speech recognition, assisted hydrothermal oxidation for safe, cost-effective disposal of hazardous materials, an advanced letter sorting system for the United States Postal Service, PacketHop, a revolutionary peer-to-peer wireless technology to create scalable ad hoc networks, electroactive polymer aka “artificial muscle”, and several landmark education and economic studies.
In the 2000s, SRI developed, among other things, new uses for diamagnetic levitation; the Deployable Force-on-Force Instrumented Range System (DFIRST), which uses GPS satellites, high-speed wireless communications, and digital terrain map displays to train armored combat units during battle exercises; live-virtual-constructive training systems for the California National Guard; Pathway Tools software, which aims to accelerate drug discovery by using artificial intelligence and symbolic computing techniques to analyze complex biological processes; BioCyc, SRI’s growing collection of genomic databases and software tools used by biologists to visualize genes within a chromosome, complete biochemical pathways, and the full metabolic maps of organisms; the advanced modular incoherent scatter radar (AMISR), a novel relocatable atmospheric research facility under construction for the National Science Foundation; the Centibots, one of the first and largest teams of coordinated, autonomous mobile robots that explore, map, and survey unknown environments; and speech recognition and translation functionality for the VoxTec Phraselator handheld speech translator, which has enabled U.S. soldiers overseas to communicate with local citizens in near real time.
SRI researchers made the first observation of visible light emitted by oxygen atoms in the night-side airglow of Venus, offering new insight into the planet’s atmosphere. SRI education researchers conducted the first national evaluation of the growing U.S. charter schools movement. For the World Golf Foundation, SRI compiled the first-ever estimate of the overall scope of the U.S. golf industry’s goods and services ($62 billion in 2000), providing a framework for monitoring the long-term growth of the industry.
In 2006, SRI was awarded a $56.9 million contract with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to provide preclinical services for the development of drugs and antibodies for anti-infective treatments for avian influenza, SARS, West Nile virus, hepatitis, and more.
Also in 2006, SRI announced it has selected St. Petersburg, Florida as the site for a new marine technology research facility. SRI St. Petersburg aims to accelerate research and development of technologies related to ocean science, the maritime industry and port security. SRI's expansion into Florida is a collaboration with the University of South Florida College of Marine Science and its Center for Ocean Technology, and is supported by the City of St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, and the State of Florida.
SRI celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2006.
In 1972, Harold Puthoff and Russell Targ initiated a series of human subject studies to determine whether participants (the viewers or percipients) could reliably identify and accurately describe salient features of remote locations or targets. In the early studies, a human sender was typically present at the remote location, as part of the experiment protocol. A three-step process was used, the first step being to randomly select the target conditions to be experienced by the senders. Secondly, in the viewing step, participants were asked to verbally express or sketch their impressions of the remote scene. Thirdly, in the judging step, these descriptions were matched by separate judges, as closely as possible, with the intended targets. The term remote viewing was coined to describe this overall process.
In order to explore the nature of remote viewing channel, the viewer in some experiments was secured in a double-walled copper-screened Faraday cage. Although this provided attenuation of radio signals over a broad range of frequencies, the researchers found that it did not alter the subject's remote viewing capability. They postulated that extremely low frequency (ELF) propagation might be involved, since Faraday cage screening is less effective in the ELF range. Such a hypothesis had previously been put forward by telepathy researchers in the Soviet Union.
The first paper by Puthoff and Targ on psychic research to appear in a mainstream peer-reviewed scientific journal was published in Nature in March 1974; in it, the team reported some degree of remote viewing success. One of the individuals involved in these initial studies at SRI was Uri Geller, a well-known celebrity psychic at the time. The research team reported witnessing some of Geller's trademark metal spoon-bending performances, but admitted that they were unable to conduct adequately controlled experiments to confirm any paranormal hypothesis about them.
Electroencephalography (EEG) techniques were also used by team to examine ESP phenomena. In these investigations, a sender, who was isolated in a visually opaque, electrically and acoustically shielded chamber, was stimulated at random by bursts of strobe-light flickers. The experimenters reported that, for one receiver, differential alpha block on control and stimulus trials were observed, which showed that some information transfer had occurred. In contrast, this person's expressed statements of when the stimulus occurred were no different than that which would be expected by chance. The researches were unable to identify the physical parameters by which the EEG effect was mediated.
Another series of experiments in the early 1970s focused on psychokinesis, which concerns how human consciousness may influence the behavior of external physical systems. In these studies, the support came from NASA on a contract administered by JPL. They involved building an electronic apparatus that would randomize images presented to an individual, who was asked to predict them in advance. By coupling the randomizer with encouraging feedback and reinforcement for successful predictions, the system was intended to measure how individuals develop their clairvoyance or other telepathic powers. The entire data-gathering process was supposed to be automated, in order to limit the potential for experimenter interference. However, this part of the protocol had been violated for several experiments. A JPL review of the final report noted that, when these parts were omitted from analysis, no evidence of ESP performance could be identified. NASA concluded that there was no basis for further support of this work.
After the publication of these findings, various attempts to replicate the remote viewing findings were quickly carried out. Several of these follow-up studies, which involved viewing in group settings, reported some limited success. They included the use of face-to-face groups, and remotely-linked groups using computer conferencing.
The various debates in the mainstream scientific literature prompted the editors of Proceedings of the IEEE to invite Robert Jahn, then Dean of the School of Engineering at Princeton University, to write a comprehensive review of psychic phenomena from an engineering perspective. His paper, published in February 1982, includes numerous references to remote viewing replication studies at the time.
The descriptions of a large number of psychic studies and their results were published in March 1976, in the journal Proceedings of the IEEE. Together with the earlier papers, this provoked an extended debate in the mainstream scientific literature. Numerous problems in the overall design of the remote viewing studies were identified, with problems noted in all three of the remote viewing steps (target selection, target viewing, and results judging). A particular problem was the failure to follow the standard procedures that are used in experimental psychology.
Several external researchers expressed concerns about the reliability of the judging process. Independent examination of some of the sketches and transcripts from the viewing process revealed flaws in the original procedures and analyses. In particular, the presence of sensory cues being available to the judges was noted. A lengthy exchange ensued, with the external researchers finally concluding that the failure of Puthoff and Targ to address their concerns meant that the claim of remote viewing "can no longer be regarded as falling within the scientific domain".
Procedural problems and researcher conflicts of interest in the psychokinesis experiments were noted by science writer Martin Gardner in a detailed analysis of the NASA final report.. Also, sloppy procedures in the conduct of the EEG study were reported by a visiting observer during another series of exchanges in the scientific literature.