MIT Reports to the President 1994-95


When the Media Laboratory was established in 1985, its concept of a digital society seemed little more than an unrealizable fantasy to the population-at-large. The personal computer, for all intents and purposes, did not exist. Most people could not begin to imagine how quickly computing and multi-media would infiltrate our daily lives.

But today, as the Laboratory prepares for its tenth birthday celebration on October 10, 1995, the digital revolution is widely recognized as irrevocable. An astounding 30 million people are estimated to be on the Internet, and those who considered themselves "digitally challenged" only a year ago, now negotiate their way through cyberspace, communicating through e-mail and browsing the World Wide Web. People no longer question the need to understand the growing trend from atoms to bits, or the complexities of human-computer interaction.

During our first decade, the Laboratory has been, in many ways, in the right place at the right time: our total annual dollar volume (research, funds, academic, and equipment gifts) grew from less than $1 million in our first year of business to more than $23 million in Fiscal Year 1995. Some 84 percent of the Laboratory's research support now comes from more than 100 corporate sponsors worldwide. But despite our past success, the Laboratory cannot afford to become complacent. Rather, we must look to the future with new energy, determination, and imagination. The challenge is to continue "pushing the envelope," putting forth ideas that seem as outrageous today as our concept of a digital society was 10 years ago.

That is exactly why we are choosing the milestone of our tenth birthday to expand in a new direction, with a new laboratory-wide research consortium, Things That Think.

This new consortium will explore ways of moving computation beyond conventional sites, such as PCs or laptops, and adding intelligence to objects that are first and foremost something else. By sensing the movements or feeling of their owners--or by learning their owners' habits--common devices such as toasters, doorknobs, or shoes, will be able to perform any number of useful tasks. Like the Laboratory's two other research consortia, News in the Future (NiF) and Television of Tomorrow (TVOT), Things That Think (TTT) will bring together an unusual range of interdisciplinary talent and require a close research partnership between the Laboratory and our sponsor community.


In 1994-95, Media Laboratory research advances included:

In addition, last October the Media Laboratory hosted a major symposium, Digital Expression, which explored the future of creative expression in the face of new technology. Speakers included John Hockenberry, Laurie Anderson, Peter Gabriel, Peter Sellars, Nolan Bushnell, Max Mathews, Douglas Trumbull, Quincy Jones, Jane Alexander, Michael Schulhof, Raymond Smith, and Penn & Teller.


Research Sponsors

The Laboratory's research volume continued to grow in Fiscal Year 1995, with $9.5 million (84 percent) coming from corporate sponsors. Approximately $1.8 million (16 percent ) came from the U.S. federal government (Department of the Army, JNIDS, NSF, Office of Naval Research, and ORD). Geographically, the industrial component of FY'95 contract research sponsorship breaks down as follows: 48 percent North America; 26 percent Europe; and 26 percent Far East.

Directed Sponsors

New directed research sponsors during Fiscal Year 1995 included:

LEGO Futura ApS, which provided new support to Professors Seymour Papert and Mitchel Resnick for a research program with several themes, including: "triggers" for engagement, playing and learning in communities, "hands-on" learning, and technological fluency.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which provided a seed grant to Professor Glorianna Davenport for a CD-Rom with the working title: "Jerome B. Wiesner, 1915-1944: A Random Walk Through the 20th Century."

National Science Foundation (NSF), which provided a grant to Christopher Schmandt for a new research project, "Accoustic Cues to Discourse for Interactive Speech Skimming."

Oki Advanced Products Division, which provided new support for a research program in "smarter smart cards--wireless ID tags and applications at Aspen," conducted by Professor Michael Hawley.

ORD, which contracted for a project in "Dynamic Scene Analysis," directed by Professor Aaron Bobick.

ONR, which provided new support to Professor Alex Pentland for research in appearance-based vision, wherein MIT is a subcontractor to the University of Maryland under an ONR grant.

Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. and The Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), which support Professor Stephen Benton's work in autostereoscopic television for multiple viewers.

Texas Instruments, Inc., which supports a project on model-based video compression, directed by Professor Alex Pentland in the Vision and Modeling group.


In Fiscal Year 1995, the Media Laboratory initiated a new consortium with Singapore:

Singapore Digital Media Consortium (SDMC)

The Media Laboratory announced a three-year, $2.25 million collaborative research program in digital media with the SDMC. The evolving consortium, which includes corporate sponsors and public-sector research institutes in Singapore, is led and managed by the National Computer Board (NCB). The agreement provides partial support for the Media Bank project, directed by Andrew Lippman, and for other Media Laboratory faculty.

News in the Future

AGEA S.A. Clarín and NY Times/Globe joined the Laboratory's News in the Future (NiF) consortium in Fiscal Year 1995.

Television of Tomorrow

The Laboratory's Movies of the Future consortium officially merged with the Television of Tomorrow (TVOT) consortium.

Special Funds and Equipment Gift Sponsors

AT&T continued to support the Laboratory through its Digital Media Research Fund. The following students were named AT&T Media Laboratory Fellows in the fall of 1994: Amy Bruckman, Dan Ellis, Roger Kermode, Adam Lindsay, Warren Sack and Charles Wei-Ting Tang.

Bay Networks, Inc., through a corporate merger, replaced Wellfleet Communications as the sponsor of routers and other networking equipment for the Laboratory.

Digital Equipment Corporation provided a grant in support of the Laboratory's central computing systems.

Festo KG provided special funds to support the research of Professors Mitchel Resnick and Neil Gershenfeld.

Hewlett Packard continued financial support for the research programs of Professors Rosalind Picard and Neil Gershenfeld. In addition, HP provided a special, major equipment grant for the Media Bank and other projects throughout the Laboratory.

In addition to new multi-year support for the TVOT consortium, Intel Corporation gifted 36 Pentium machines to the Laboratory.

Interval Research Corporation Fellows, named in the fall of 1994, were Fang Liu, Teresa Marrin, Wendy Plesniak, Lisa Stifelman, Manish Kumar Tuteja, and Tom Zimmerman.

The first Motorola Fellows were named in the fall of 1994: Stefan Agamanolis, Derek Atkins, Bill Gardner, Yezdi Lashkari, Matt Marx, Eric Métois, Jon Orwant and Flavia Sparacino.

NEC continued to provide special funds to support Professor Rosalind Picard, who holds the NEC Career Development Professorship. The funds were directed toward her work in texture and image models, semantic signal processing, and pattern perception.

Silicon Graphics, Inc. continued to provide equipment under a special-use arrangement.

Apple Computer, Interlego A/S, Mitsubishi, and Toshiba all continued to provide funds in support of specific faculty and projects.

Media Technology Fund Sponsors

New Media Technology Fund sponsors during the year included Compaq Computer Corporation and National Communications System.


Muriel R. Cooper Memorial Professorship

An endowment has been established to create a professorship in memory of Muriel R. Cooper. Major donors to this fund include Dohosha Publishing Co., Ltd., and Origin/Media Lab BV.


Andrew Lippman, associate director of the Media Laboratory and director of the Media Bank was awarded his PhD in 1995 from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne.

Deborah Cohen joined the Media Laboratory as director of communications and Sponsor Relations, replacing Christopher Gant who left the Laboratory to become the vice president of Pixel, Inc. of Tel Aviv. Cohen was most recently deputy director of corporate and foundation relations and director of foundation giving at the University of California, Los Angeles. Gant continues his association with the Media Laboratory as a research affiliate. Ellen Hoffman also joined Communications and Sponsor Relations as the editor of FRAMES and other Media Laboratory publications, following the departure of Patricia Peterson from the Laboratory to pursue freelance work. Ms. Hoffman was formerly director of writing and development manager in the Office of Development and Public Affairs at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Jane Wojcik joined the Media Laboratory's Technical Services group as network manger to replace Mark Sausville, who left the Laboratory to return to California. Wojcik earned her PhD in atmospheric sciences from MIT, and was most recently a network systems engineer at BBN, Inc. Kirk Noda worked for one year as a technical assistant installing the fiber-optic network under the supervision of Dr. Wojcik. Marc Berjarano has replaced Mr. Noda in that position.

Irfan Essa accepted a one-year research scientist position in the Vision and Modeling group of the Laboratory. Dr. Essa received his PhD from the Program in Media Arts and Sciences in September 1994. Joseph Paradiso's appointment as research scientist was extended through December of 1995. Dr. Paradiso works with Professor Neil Gershenfeld in the Laboratory's Physics and Media group.

Felice Napolitano was promoted from the support staff to the sponsored research staff as project coordinator of the News in the Future research group. Gregory Tucker was promoted to facilities manager for the Laboratory. Lauren Gallant was promoted to administrative officer for the Laboratory.

Penn (Jillette) and Teller were appointed visiting scholars to the Media Laboratory for three years in December 1994. Jack Driscoll of the Boston Globe joined the News in the Future group as a visiting scholar.

New research affiliates included Seung-Kwon Ahn of LG Electronics and Akira Kotani from Mitsubishi.

Richard Broberg left the Systems Programming group one year after joining it. Ron Newman, research specialist, left the Laboratory in December.

Nicholas Negroponte

MIT Reports to the President 1994-95