SAP, the German business-software stalwart that’s been struggling to catch up in cloud services, is trying to follow the PARC model... Over the past year, SAP has also recruited about 20 polymathic technologists and designers from the fringes of Silicon Valley and academia. The company is funding its new hires’ pet projects and leaving them alone to experiment, says head recruiter AlanKay, a computer scientist who pioneered Xerox PARC’s graphical interface technology in the 1970s. Although it’s unclear how products from the Communications Design Group will mesh with SAP’s portfolio of office software, Kay says that’s kind of the point... Bret Victor, a former Apple designer, has spent much of the past five years developing software that lets scientists simulate the shifts and changes of complex systems using interactive graphics instead of equations. ViHart, a self-styled “recreational mathemusician,” is working with artist-programmer Andrea Hawksley on an SAP-backed virtual-reality startup, EleVR. Mathematician and coder Toby Schachman is building a program called Shadershop that lets people structure software by drawing it instead of writing out the code... “Innovation is expensive because it’s product-driven,” he says, “but invention is just 20 to 40 people exploring odd things.”
May26: AlanKay on the process: Kay lived it: he was (and is) a computer scientist, professional musician, designer, educator, and artist all in one. Kay thrived in PARC's blue-sky R&D environment; he occupied similar littoral zones between art and tech at Apple Advanced Technology Group, DisNey's Imagineering division, and HP's Advanced Software Research Team. Kay has also tried to help companies re-bottle the lightning that crackled within Xerox PARC during his tenure there. It usually doesn't work. The reason? "It’s either so antithetical to the corporate culture that nobody really wants it," Kay told me, "or [they] want to monetize everything.".. Xerox PARC and CDG are like collective Mac Arthur Grant-s. You’re not funding individuals, you’re putting together a community... The way to get something [out of it] that’s relevant to a company like Xerox or SAP is to set up a ConText so that the free thinking of these people is more often than not going to be about something of concern to the company.
CDG's GitHub account