The MIT Media Lab promotes antidisciplinary culture -- mixing and matching of seemingly disparate research areas. The Lab creates technologies such as wearable computing, tangible interfaces, and affective computing. Faculty members, research staff, and students at the Lab work in over 25 research groups and initiatives on more than 450 projects that range from digital approaches for treating neurological disorders, to advanced imaging technologies that can "see around a corner," to the world's first "smart" powered ankle-foot prosthesis.
The Lab is supported by more than 80 members who provide the majority of the Lab's approximately $75 million annual operating budge.
In the Affective Computing group, researchers work to help computers recognize and model human emotional expression. These include software tools to help people gather, communicate and express emotional information and understand the impact emotions have on health, social interaction, learning, memory and behavior. Projects include:
- Adaptive Music for Affect Improvement, which is a music generation and playback system focused on bringing a listener to a state of positive affect. Affect change is measured through facial changes and emotion detection.
- ELSA: Empathy learning, socially-aware agents, is an AI-powered chatbot which acts as an empathetic companion. ELSA is trying to build a more empathetic neural network conversational AI.
The Biomechatronics group works to advance permanent assistive devices to resemble the body's musculoskeletal design, behave more like muscle in movement and develop control methodologies using principles of biological movement. Projects include:
- Neural Interfaces, which work to develop small implantable devices allowing bi-directional communication with amputated nerves to aid motor functions for prosthesis control, and developing a micro-channel array for peripheral nerves to grow into to achieve greater separation of axons by functionality.
- High power bionic joints for dynamic gait actions, which works improve bionic actuators in range of motion, power density, bandwidth and mass.
The Camera Culture group works towards creating new classes of computational and sensory platforms to understand the world beyond the human ability for health, work and connection. Projects include:
- Seeing Through Realistic Fog, which uses visible light and hardware similar to LIDAR to recover target depth and reflectance to remove inclement weather conditions.
- Streetchange, which uses computer vision to measure change in the physical appearance of neighborhoods.
The City Science group works towards new strategies for creating living and working spaces in urban environments and the mobility systems which connect them. Projects include:
- Piccolo Kitchen, works to create a modular platform for culture-specific micro-kitchens. The projects includes robotic cabinets and appliances to minimize space while maximizing utility.
- The Power of Without, which seeks to identify cost-efficient and lightweight infrastructure systems for rapidly urbanizing areas.
The Civic Media group works to understand the relationship between communities, ecologies of media and technology and the natures of information and power. Projects include:
- Dormio: Interfacing with Dreams, works to capture dreams in stage-1 sleep to increase creativity through the idea association and idea incubation offered in the absence of through controlled and directed attention.
- Space/Craft explores sculpting in zero gravity by using a hot glue gun to draw in microgravity.
The Conformable Decoders work to explore novel materials, device designs and fabrication strategies to create micro- and nanoscale electromechanical systems which allow intimate integration with objects of interest. Projects include:
- Conformal Piezoelectric Mechanical Energy Harvesters: Mechanically Invisible Human Dynamos, which works to create patches integrated in personal garments to extract energy from body movements to charge implanted devices or batteries and provide a power source.
- MiNDS: Miniaturized Neural System for Chronic, Local Intracerebral Drug Delivery, which works to develop an implantable, remotely controlled, neural drug delivery system to pinpoint drug administration to affected areas with minimal diffusion and leakage.
The Fluid Interfaces group design systems and interfaces for cognitive enhancement, intending to help build cognitive skills such as attention, memory, motivation, creativity, mindful behavior and emotion regulation. Projects include:
- AlterEgo, a non-invasive wearable neural interface which allows the wearer to converse with machines, artificial intelligence assistants, services and other people without opening their mouth or any external movement. Feedback is given through bone conduction and creates a closed-loop interaction that is experienced as internal to the user.
- Lotuscent: Targeted Memory Reactivation for Wellbeing using Scent and VR biofeedback, the project maps meditative brain activity while releasing a scent to create an association to help users ease into a meditative state and to create a scent which allows users to reduce stress, anxiety and improve sleep quality.
The Human Dynamics group uses computational social science to explore other ways to organize society, government and companies. Projects include:
- BASIC: Blockchained Agent-based Simulator for Cities, which works to verify the feasibility of using blockchain as a communication layer.
- Urban Swarms, a project which looks at the ability for swarm robotics systems to monitor infrastructure in urban environments.
The Lifelong Kindergarten group works to create engaging and playful learning experiences through technology. Projects include:
- Scratch is a programming language and tool to teach people mathematical and computational ideas while creating stories and projects.
The Mediated Matter group researches computational design, digital fabrication, materials science, synthetic biology and applies the knowledge to design across scales. Projects include:
- Maiden Flight, the project studies the impact of space flight on a queen bee and her retinue in order to extend the bee reproductive system for environmental extremes.
- FIBERBOTS, a digital fabrication platform using cooperative robotic manufactures with, what they call, sophisticated material architectures.
The Molecular Machine group seeks to understand and approach the limit of engineered complexity deliverable per cost with a focus on genome engineering, machine learning, bioinformatics and protein and drug design. Projects include:
- Affinity: Deep Learning API for Molecular Geometry, is a machine learning API dedicated to molecular geometry, written in TensorFLow.
- Evolutron: Deep Learning for Protein Design, are developing a deep learning framework for evolutionary analysis, search and design of proteins.
The Nano-Cybernetic Biotrek group works to develop nanoelectronic computational devices and nanomachine-bio hybrid systems with remote and wireless communication abilities. Projects include:
- Nano-implants for energy harvesting and wireless sensing, which works to develop nano-devices to non-invasively and remotely monitor and modulate biological systems.
- Life-Nanomachine Synergism works to develop energy-efficient and ultra-scalable nano-machines capable of energy harvesting, wireless communication and being remotely controlled.
The Object-Based Media group explores the future of electronic visual communication and expression while developing hardware and software technologies to support scenarios. Projects include:
- Bird: A 3D Cursor for 3D Interaction in Virtual Reality, Bird translates a user's finger movements and positions into a 3D pointer in a virtual space.
- ConceptNet, or Open Mind Common Sense, started in 1999 to help computers understand the meanings of words that people use. They are a crowd-sourced project.
The Opera of the Future group explores concepts and techniques for the future of musical composition, performance, learning and expression. Projects include:
- Sonic enrichment at the zoo, where the MIT Media Lab and San Diego Zoo collaborate to design and build interactive sonic enrichment systems for animals.
- Joy Branch, a project where different user interfaces allow parrots to shape their sonic environment.
The Personal Robots group works to build robotic creatures with a presence similar to a human to understand how humans interact with human-like robots. Projects include:
- Social Robots for Children with Autism project works to explore the role of a social robot to helping children with autism and their families.
- Doodle Bot, a robot-based AI learning platform for high school students, which involves an introduction to robotics, hardware, software programming and machine learning.
The Responsive Environments group works to augment and mediate human experience, interaction and perception with sensor networks. Projects include:
- BaguaMarsh, the project takes the idea of unity between heaven and man from the I ching and combines the Bagua with multidimensional data and multimedia to create an immersive interactive environment for a form of visual narrative.
- Persian Domes for Human Space Exploration on Mars, as suggested, studies how the domes in the Lut Desert of Iran could inspire a design for a3D printed regolith dome to provide shelter from micrometeoroid and radiation for a greenhouse infrastructure on Mars.
The Scalable Cooperation group studies human cooperation in respect to social media and artificial intelligence. Projects include:
- AI, Automation, Labor and Cities: How to map the future of work, which works to answer the question of how artificial intelligence and automation will change the way people work.
- TuringBox: Democratizing the study of AI, is a platform where social and behavioral scientists can study artificial intelligence algorithms.
The Sculpting Evolution group works to explore evolutionary and ecological engineering with self-replicating systems including gene drive elements capable of altering wild populations. Projects include:
- Reducing suffering in laboratory animals, which develops strains of mice that experience less pain and suffering than current animals while being suited for laboratory and medical research.
- City as Classroom, City as Laboratory, is a project which seeks to understand the environmental impact of cities and the importance of designing with nature in mind.
The Signal Kinetics group works to extend human and computer capabilities in communication, sensing and actuation. Projects include:
- Battery-Free Subsea Internet-of-Things, is a technology which enables backscatter networking in in underwater environments and relies on piezoelectric effect to enable communication and sensing at near-zero power.
- RFIQ: Food quality and safety detection using wireless stickers is a project which leverages RFID tags on products to sense potential food contamination.
The Social Machines group uses natural language processing, network science, machine learning and user experience design to analyse and build tools to promote deeper learning and understanding in human networks. Projects includes:
- INSPIRE: Intelligence Never Seeks Perfection, Instead Requires Effort, is a project which aims to expose students to stories of triumph and hope they find personally meaningful.
- Radio Talk, a project which includes speech recognition transcripts sampled from radio broadcasts in the U.S. from October 2018 and March 2019 for use by researchers in the fields of natural language processing, conversational analysis and social sciences.
The Space Enabled group aims to advance justice in Earth'c systems by using designs enabled by space. Projects include:
- Low-cost invasive species management in coastal ecosystems: A case study in Benin, is a project exploring Earth Observation data application for the management of invasive plant species threatening local economic activities.
- Accessibility of the microgravity research ecosystem is a project aimed at understanding the socio-technical and policy issues affecting the marketplace for future microgravity platforms essential to maintaining an accessible and sustainable space economy.
The Synthetic Neurobiology seeks to map the molecules and wiring of the brain, record and control the neural dynamics and repair of dysfunction. Projects include:
- Tools for mapping the molecular architecture and wiring of the brain seeks to develop tools to enable the mapping of the location and identity of the molecular building blocks of complex biological systems.
- Tools for recording high-speed brain dynamics is a project which seeks to develop tools to enable analyses of neural circuits.
The Tangible Media group seeks to couple the world of bits and atoms by giving dynamic physical form to digital information and computation and enrich human interactions in the digital world. Projects include:
- SensorKnits: Architecting textile sensors with machine knitting, is a project which developed three classes of textile sensors exploiting the resistive, piezoresistive and capacitive properties of various textile structures.
- CONJURE, is a project which focuses on using tangible displays and object space to develop assistive technologies.
The Viral Communications group seeks to create scalable technologies that evolve with user inventiveness. Projects include:
- Enlightened: Broaden Your Views, is a project in which users watch short summarized news clips with the option to press a lightbulb to signify whether the segment has been enlightening.
- Defacto: Decentralized crowdsourced news verification system, is a project to build a decentralized, crowd-sourced news verification system leveraging the wisdom of crowds to generate labels to badge news articles.
MIT Media Lab was involved in public scrutiny in late 2019 when documents and emails showed they were connected, through funding, to Jeffrey Epstein. In September of 2019, Ronan Farrow, writing for The New Yorker published an article which showed the relationship between himself and Joichi Ito, MIT Media Lab's then-director, who resigned after the articles publication.
In October of 2019, Michael Bove, a longtime faculty member, was removed from MIT's Media Lab for violating MIT's sexual harassment policy. Following the event, the Media Lab required all personnel to go through sexual harassment training.
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