A new research centre has been opened at the University of Melbourne which Microsoft claims will see Australia play a major role in the development of new social interactive technologies.

The Microsoft Centre for Social Natural User Interface Research -- which marks an $8 million collaboration (over three years) between founding partners Microsoft, the University of Melbourne, and the State Government of Victoria -- will be a focal point for researchers to undertake projects on the social uses and applications of Natural User Interface (NUI).

NUI technologies refer to those which combine voice, gesture recognition, eye gaze, body movements and touch, like those found in smartphones, tablets, and devices like the Xbox Kinect.

"This new centre will undertake important work in terms of creating the next generation of computing experiences," University of Melbourne Department of Computing and Information Systems Interaction Design Lab director, Frank Vetere, said.

"Social NUIs, in particular, humanise technology; they are about making technology work for people rather than people working for technology."

Microsoft said academics and PhD students in the centre will undertake research alongside leading social NUI researchers in the world, and will have the opportunity to spend time at Microsoft's research centres in Cambridge (UK), Beijing (China), and Redmond (USA).

In addition to 28 dedicated positions, the centre will welcome researchers with an interest in social NUI from across the globe.