Using machine-learning to auto-gen scary faces and hauntify buildings


The Nightmare Machine is an MIT project to use machine learning image-processing to make imagery for Hallowe'en. Read the rest

Nightwork: the extraordinary, exuberant history of rulebreaking at MIT

MIT has a complicated relationship with disobedience. On the one hand, the university has spent more than a century cultivating and celebrating a "hacker culture" that involves huge, ambitious, thoughtful and delightful pranks undertaken with the tacit approval of the university. On the other hand -- well, on the other hand: Star Simpson, Bunnie Huang, and Aaron Swartz. In Nightwork, first published in 2003 and updated in 2011, MIT Historian T. F. Peterson explores this contradictory relationship and celebrates the very best, while suggesting a path for getting rid of the very worst.

MIT Media Lab announces $250,000 "Rewarding Disobedience" prize

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Linkedin founder Reid Hoffman has bankrolled an experimental, one-time prize of $250,000 that the Media Lab will award for research that harnesses "responsible, ethical disobedience aimed at challenging the norms, rules, or laws that sustain society’s injustices?" Read the rest

As browsers decline in relevance, they're becoming DRM timebombs

My op-ed in today's issue of The Tech, MIT's leading newspaper, describes how browser vendors and the W3C, a standards body that's housed at MIT, are collaborating to make DRM part of the core standards for future browsers, and how their unwillingness to take even the most minimal steps to protect academics and innovators from the DMCA will put the MIT community in the crosshairs of corporate lawyers and government prosecutors. Read the rest

MIT Media Lab will default to permitting student code to be free/open


Historically, MIT Media Lab students who released their work under free/open licenses had to get approval from a committee (that always granted it). Read the rest

See this drone that draws


The MIT Media Lab's "Flying Pantograph" is a pen-wielding tele-robot controlled by a drawing interface. From MIT's Fluid Interfaces research group:

A drone becomes an “expression agent” - modified to carry a pen and be controlled by human motions, then carries out the actual process of drawing on a vertical wall. Not only mechanically extending a human artist, the drone plays a crucial part of the expression as its own motion dynamics and software intelligence add new visual language to the art. This agency forms a strong link between a human artist and the canvas, however, in the same time, is a deliberate programmatic disconnect that offers space for exploiting machine aesthetics as a core expression medium.

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Voice and gesture interface from 1979!

In 1979, MIT professor Christopher Schmandt and colleagues developed "Put That There," a voice and gesture interactive system, in the Architecture Machine Group (that later evolved into the famed MIT Media Lab). In this video, a researcher demonstrates the system while sitting comfortably in a stylish Eames Lounge Chair. From a 1982 paper about the project (PDF):

(Put That There) allows a user to build and modify a graphical database on a large format video dis- play. The goal of the research is a simple, conversational interface to sophisticated computer interaction. Natural language and gestures are used, while speech output allows the system to query the user on ambiguous input.

This project starts from the assumption that speech recognition hardware will never be 100% accurate, and explores other techniques to increase the use- fulness (i.e., the "effective accuracy") of such a system. These include: redundant input channels, syntactic and semantic analysis, and context- sensitive interpretation. In addition, we argue that recognition errors will be more tolerable if they are evident sooner through feedback and easily corrected by voice.

(Thanks, Dustin Hostetler!)

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Marvin Minsky's "Society of Mind," a free course on AI from MIT


Artificial Intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky died yesterday. He was one of computer science's great pioneers, a brilliant researcher who could translate his insights into material accessible even to laypeople. Read the rest

What will it take to get MIT to stand up for its own students and researchers?


In 2007, 19-year-old MIT Media Lab student named Star Simpson went to Boston's Logan Airport to meet a friend wearing a sweater she'd decorated with LEDs in the shape of a star; the Logan police responded (with machine guns) to a call about a "dark-skinned man" with a suspicious device. Read the rest

How the DHS is stalling the release of the Aaron Swartz files


Lisa Rein writes, "When Jacob Appelbaum called for transparency in Aaron Swartz's FOIA case, he was talking about Kevin Poulsen's ongoing case against the Department of Homeland Security, a case that MIT managed to intervene in." Read the rest

Celebrating three decades of amazing innovation from the MIT Media Lab


This Wired video interview with former director Nicholas Negroponte and current director Joi Ito is a mind-blowing tour through the Media Lab's storied history: from e-ink to touchscreens to multitouch to in-car GPS to wearables. The current Media Lab administration is pretty amazing, and the research just keeps getting more mind-blowing. Read the rest

Fossil fuel divestment sit-in at MIT President's office hits 10,000,000,000-hour mark


Climatebrad writes, "The MIT grad students occupying the hallway outside President Reif's office until MIT divests from fossil fuels have hit the 10000000000-hour mark (base 2 - in base 10, that's a still-impressive 1024 hours). The sit-in began October 22." Read the rest

Adorable robotic cube jumps to the top of a pile


Robots have a hard time making their way across uneven, unstable terrain. Read the rest

How to teach gerrymandering and its many subtle, hard problems


Ben Kraft teaches a unit on gerrymandering -- rigging electoral districts to ensure that one party always wins -- to high school kids in his open MIT Educational Studies Program course. As he describes the problem and his teaching methodology, I learned that district-boundaries have a lot more subtlety and complexity than I'd imagined at first, and that there are some really chewy math and computer science problems lurking in there. Read the rest

MIT and EFF's Freedom to Innovate Summit: defending students' and hackers' right to tinker


The Oct 10/11 event is run jointly by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Center for Civic Media at MIT and will be hosted at the MIT Media Lab. Read the rest

MIT and Boston U open legal clinic for innovative tech projects

The Entrepreneurship & Intellectual Property Law Clinic was partly inspired by the death of Aaron Swartz, who was hounded by federal prosecutors with MIT's complicity. Read the rest

MIT demos sub-$10k 3D printer that can spew 10 materials at once


MIT researchers built a 3D printer from just $7,000 in off-the-shelf parts that can print ten different materials at a time. Current multi-material 3D printers generally can only spew out three materials and cost more than $200,000. From MIT News:

MultiFab gives users the ability to embed complex components, such as circuits and sensors, directly onto the body of an object, meaning that it can produce a finished product, moving parts and all, in one fell swoop.

The researchers have used MultiFab to print everything from smartphone cases to light-emitting diode lenses — and they envision an array of applications in consumer electronics, microsensing, medical imaging, and telecommunications, among other things. They plan to also experiment with embedding motors and actuators that would make it possible to 3-D print more advanced electronics, including robots.

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