Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Innovation, Rocky Mountain Style

A group of Media Lab students and Lab director Joi Ito are on their way to Aspen to participate in the Aspen Ideas Festival 2012. We created a video here at the Lab as a preview of their work. Check it out! After the jump, you'll find more info on the group (bios and abstracts of their talks). Follow the festival on Twitter: @aifestival, #AspenIdeas, and follow all our Media Lab participants via this Twitter list.

Micah Eckhardt
PhD Student, Affective Computing group, MIT Media Lab

Micah Eckhardt has a diverse technological background in machine learning and vision, robotics, and interaction design. He is developing assistive and learning technologies for individuals diagnosed with autism; his current focus is on a social platform for interactive and customizable illustrated stories, with a goal of studying the effects of interactive and customizable stories to help children with minimal language and verbal ability acquire and express language. At the Media Lab, Micah has become increasingly involved in outreach programs, the Media Lab's India Initiative, and with Innovate Salone (a multi-university initiative to empower youth in Sierra Leone).

Micah will discuss autism and language learning. Specifically, he will explore the development of a social story platform for helping children diagnosed with autism acquire and express language.

Todd Farrell
PhD Student, Biomechatronics group, MIT Media Lab
Todd Farrell’s main research interest is in the control of robotic prosthetics using myoelectric signal processing and machine learning. He is also involved with the Pacific Social Architecting Corporation as CTO and advisor, and is an instructor for Developing World Prosthetics, a course taught at MIT. There, he develops projects around the various clinical, business, and social problems associated with disseminating prosthetics in the developing world. Previously, Todd has worked or done research at Medtronic, MIT’s Microsystems Technology Laboratory and Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs, and the Media and Design Laboratory at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

Todd will discuss the science of biomechanics and biological movement control and the design of biomedical devices for the treatment of human physical disability, as well as what is coming in the future, and the challenges that lay ahead. The Biomechatronics group and Developing World Prostheses research program seek to advance technologies that promise to accelerate the merging of body and machine, including device architectures that resemble the body's musculoskeletal design, actuator technologies that behave like muscle, and control methodologies that exploit principles of biological movement.

Coco Krumme
PhD Student, Human Dynamics group, MIT Media Lab
Coco Krumme is studying behavioral economics and human habits through the lens of big data. She is a member of the American Association of Wine Economists. She received her BS from Yale University.

Coco examines how people change over time. She studies the daily routines of tens of thousands of individuals, and finds that 1) we are creatures of habit: we copy our past behavior, with slow "drift" over time; 2) an individual's rate of drift depends largely on his rate of trying new things; and 3) the effect of trying new things on drift rate has a saturation point–that is, we try some things just out of a "taste for novelty." This has implications at the individual level (how you can learn to like brussels sprouts) as well as the population level (whether you can predict the success of products in markets with social influence).

Daniel McDuff
PhD Student, Affective Computing group, MIT Media Lab
Daniel McDuff received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering from Cambridge University. Prior to joining the Media Lab, he worked for the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) in the United Kingdom. He is interested in using computer vision and machine learning to enable the automated recognition of affect. He is also interested in technology for remote measurement of physiology.

Dan will talk about how we can use the cloud and/or "in-the-wild" measurement of emotions using ubiquitous sensors (cameras, microphones) to evaluate media in online environments. This will enable large-scale evaluations of viewers’ emotional responses to content, and will impact the future of media and storytelling. Potentially, the creation of new content could be enhanced through quantitative analysis of the emotional responses induced.

Nadya Peek
PhD Student, Center for Bits and Atoms, MIT
Nadya Peek works on digital fabrication, networking protocols for machine control, digital materials, machines that make machines, and rapid prototyping. In her spare time she volunteers at fablabs, or fabrication laboratories, a global network of digital fabrication facilities where anyone can make almost anything.

Nadya will present a series of machines designed for multi-purpose fabrication, running on a virtual machine network. Digital fabrication machines enable quick design iteration, low-cost manufacturing without an economy of scale, high precision, and ease of use. The machines that make machines project allows users to rapidly prototype milling machines, 3D printers, plotters, and other tools.

Eric Rosenbaum
PhD Student, Lifelong Kindergarten group, MIT Media Lab
Eric Rosenbaum’s current research focuses on the intersection of music, improvisation, play, and learning. His master's thesis explored reflective learning in the Scratch programming environment for children. He has made software for finger painting with sound, painting with light, improvising with looping sounds, and creating interactive behaviors in 3D virtual worlds. He has also worked on augmented reality and molecular dynamics simulations for science education. Eric has degrees in psychology and in technology in education from Harvard.

The future of learning is improvisation. Eric willl show new tools for improvising musical instruments and for creating user interfaces made from everyday materials.

Ben Waber
CEO, Sociometric Solutions
Ben Waber is a senior researcher at Harvard Business School and a visiting scientist at the MIT Media Lab. He is also the president and CEO of Sociometric Solutions, a management consulting firm that uses social sensing technology to understand and improve organizations. He received his PhD from MIT for his work with Alex ‘Sandy’ Pentland in the Human Dynamics group at the Media Lab. Waber’s work has been featured in major media outlets such as Wired, The Economist, and NPR. He has consulted for industry leaders such as LG, McKinsey & Company, and Gartner on technology trends, social networks, and organizational design.

Ben investigates—using cutting-edge, wearable sensing technology—how people communicate with each other in the real and virtual worlds, and how their communication patterns impact happiness, individual performance, and organizational success. Despite the fact that communication and information flow are among the most crucial aspects of any business, until recently there hasn't been any objective, scalable way to capture that information.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Openness at the MIT Media Lab

In education, we see a trend toward putting more and more courses online. Students learn new material, do exercises, and watch lectures outside the classroom. They spend their time in class interacting with the professor and each other, using this valuable time for mentoring and collaboration. This is called the "flipped classroom." It has a double benefit: It provides courseware that the entire world can access freely, but also creates a much richer experience on campus, focusing time together on close interactions and building relationships.

Media Lab membership is going through a similar transformation. Increasingly, what goes on at the Media Lab is available online. This does not diminish the value of our work; rather it amplifies it. It encourages collaboration, funding, and feedback, and will put our work in the context of a global conversation around the grand challenges facing the world community.

This new openness gives us the opportunity to focus more of our valuable time with Lab members on important, personal interactions. The Lab’s greatest asset will always be the people generating the ideas. Our “flipped classroom” gives us a greater ability to grow a stronger network of Lab researchers and member companies–a network where we convene, build, and amplify ideas; address complex global issues; and develop new initiatives. It also encourages members to interact and collaborate peer-to-peer.

It's the shift in focus from content to context–from nouns to verbs–from consumers to participants. The Media Lab is creating a network–a tribe–of members.

Joi Ito is director of the Media Lab.

Monday, June 11, 2012

MIT Media Lab @ The Aspen Institute Ideas Festival: “Seeding Innovation”

Every now and then you get an opportunity where your gut takes over and says, “Yes. I am doing this.” That was the feeling I had when I learned that a few of us from the MIT Media Lab might be able to attend the Aspen Institute Ideas Festival later this month. The Aspen Ideas Festival is a week-long conference for sharing thoughts about the future with some of the world’s most important thinkers, innovators, and business leaders. The Media Lab was asked to bring a few examples of the disruptive work we do here.

At the Media Lab, our antidisciplinary model of undirected research encourages exploration at the periphery—the undiscovered edges where disruptive innovations grow. Our delegation will focus on "Seeding Innovation”—exploring unexpected approaches to innovation that offer small, yet critical changes with the potential to trigger human-scale improvements for global impact—including solutions to problems that don't even exist yet.

This event will give Media Lab participants an opportunity to hear about the problems faced by many of the largest organizations in the world. Our hope is to find a good a match between our collection of solutions and the problems they face daily. Our participants come from groups across the Media Lab:

Each group offers a unique perspective on some of the major issues of the day, such as unemployment, the future of manufacturing, robotics, medical devices, and education. We look forward to reporting back on what we learn, and starting a broad-based discussion on how these new ideas can both impact our research here at the Lab and help those around the world.

Join the conversation on Twitter:
Aspen Ideas: @aifestival, #AspenIdeas
Media Lab: @medialab

M. Todd Farrell is a PhD student in the Biomechatronics group at the MIT Media Lab.