Monday, March 19, 2012

We Heart Hockenberry

John Hockenberry is a longtime friend of the Media Lab, and whenever he heads to Cambridge to take the helm at our events it's a indication that an event will be extra special. He just plain gets us, and it shows when he emcees events here—he asks compelling questions and can keep a conversation going like nobody's business (which you know from hearing him on his public radio show, The Takeaway).

The Media Lab has hundreds of people coming up with an idea a minute. This April, with John's assistance, we'll focus on exploring the intersections of nature and technology. Whether you're an invited guest here at the Lab or a virtual guest joining us via webcast, tune in April 24 and 25 to explore the ongoing work at the Media Lab.

Here's a video of John from our 25th anniversary celebration in October 2010 in discussion with Google's Eric Schmidt and a group of Media Lab faculty members.

Follow John Hockenberry on Twitter: @jhockenberry

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Inside Out: Embedding Nature’s Design in Tomorrow’s Technology

Inside Out: Embedding Nature’s Design in Tomorrow’s Technology
April 23-25, 2012

The Media Lab’s annual events always have a theme day that revolves around a specific topic; this year’s theme is “Inside Out: Embedding Nature’s Design in Tomorrow’s Technology.”

Three Lab faculty members are taking the lead: Hugh Herr, Ed Boyden, and Roz Picard. Each is doing cutting-edge work relating to breaking the boundaries between what is natural and what is synthetic, and what is human and what is not. Award-winning journalist John Hockenberry will come to the Lab to serve as host, and a number of outside speakers will join Lab presenters in exploring how tomorrow’s technologies will go beyond assistive devices to integrate seamlessly with humans as symbiotic, collaborative systems.

  • Hugh Herr’s work on robotic prostheses has changed the lives of many amputees. Himself a double below-the-knee amputee as the result of a climbing accident in his late teens, Herr refused to acquiesce to the limitations of conventional prosthetics. He envisions a time when prosthetics will be more than extrabody appendages–they will work integrally with our bodies, not only replacing missing limbs, but providing even greater strength, stamina, and functionality than we would with a strictly biological limb.
  • Ed Boyden’s work on brain circuits goes about as far “inside” the body as possible, tracing paths in the brain in order to understand and improve brain function. Boyden and his collaborative team have invented tools for activating neurons with light, and for characterizing brain cells using robotics and nanotechnology. They use these tools to reveal how neural circuits generate behavior, and to yield new therapeutic strategies for brain disorders.
  • Roz Picard’s pioneering research in affective computing (a field which she created and defined) goes from autism to consumer research and back again. The same research that helps us to read facial affect in individuals with autism also provides highly accurate readings of people’s reactions to consumer products, giving far more accurate feedback than questionnaires or focus groups–testers may say they like something while their faces tell a different story!omething while their faces tell a different story!

Physical attendance at the event is by invite only, but the webcast will be open to everyone. We hope many of you will tune in and join the conversation via Twitter (#MediaLabIO).