MIT Reports to the President 1998-99


This past year the Media Laboratory focused largely on the first truly "digital" generation: the world's children. In November, the Lab hosted Junior Summit ‘98, which brought together some 3,000 children from 139 countries in an impressive display that overcame barriers of distance, economics, and language to create a truly global "kids community." After spending several months online identifying activities that they believed would make this a safer, more ecologically responsible, and humane planet, the children self-selected 92 representatives from 54 countries to represent the larger community at a week-long summit at MIT. Their presence here represented an enormous effort: some leaving their own countries–or even their own villages–for the very first time. Once here, the children quickly developed "action plans" for ideas ranging from Nation 1, a virtual nation guided by ethics rather than laws, to a Global Kidz Bank, where philanthropists deposit funds into an online "bank" to support kid-oriented initiatives. When the 54 children paraded into Kresge Auditorium in their native costumes on November 21, the final day of the summit, they showed not only MIT, but the world, that their similarities far outweighed their differences, and their ideas were truly worthy of international attention.

The Lab took the occasion of the Junior Summit to announce its largest initiative since opening its doors in 1985: the establishment of the Okawa Center. This Center, which will focus on children, learning, and developing nations, was made possible through a $27-million donation from Isao Okawa, chairman of CSK Corporation, the parent company of SEGA Enterprises Ltd. The Center will be housed in a new building, which will also include seven or eight named laboratories, the first two of which are the Motorola Digital DNA Laboratory and the LEGO Learning Laboratory (see below). The new building will be adjacent–and connected–to the current Media Laboratory, and will more than double its current size. Occupancy is scheduled for 2003.


A sampling of 1998—99 Media Laboratory research accomplishments includes:

Advances in printed PCs, which could eventually transform your traditional paper notepad into a $10, computerized paper pad, complete with Internet connection. This technology merges the great attributes of paper (low-cost, high-quality, no need for power) with the benefits of digital technology (enormous information capacity, speed of access, and immediate worldwide reach).

The development of a wireless "digital town center" capable of providing even the most remote and underdeveloped areas of the world with telephone, e-mail, and Web access. This project, known as Little Intelligent Communities (LINCOS), is a joint collaboration between the Media Lab and the Costa Rican Foundation for Sustainable Development.

Affective computing, which will give "emotional intelligence" to computers, making them more "reasonable" when it comes to interacting with people. Tomorrow's affective computers will be able to sense what delights or frustrates you, or even figure out if it's a good time to interrupt.

The development of Hive, a new Java-based application infrastructure that links "thinking things" together, eventually allowing your refrigerator to tell your cell phone that you're low on milk.

Wearable computing, in which, for example, we move beyond PCs and laptops, and wear our computers as we would eyeglasses or clothing. Such clothes could have augmented memory, where "to do" lists flash before a user's eyes, or where online information–even an entire book–can be displayed on demand.

Expressive synthetic characters who inhabit virtual environments and interact autonomously in response to users' actions, appearing to have minds of their own.

New ways of joining the physical environment and cyberspace by making "tangible bits" accessible through everyday physical surfaces like walls or desktops, and eventually through household surfaces like refrigerator doors.

A new generation of "toys to think with" created with Crickets, small devices that represent the cross-breeding of programmable brick technology with wearable "thinking tags." Each small (2.25"x1.25") Cricket is powered by a single 9-volt battery, and equipped with an infrared system that allows two-way communication with other Crickets and with a variety of other devices.

Ways to interact with computers just as we interact with other humans, using a wide range of communication channels. One project involves multi-modal computer characters capable of face-to-face interaction with people in real-time, perceiving their gesture, speech, and gaze.

Hypersoap, the newest application of hyper-linked video technology that allows annotation of on-screen images. At any time during the video, a viewer can use a laser pointer to "click" on an object displayed on the screen to get an annotated message. Now your afternoon soap opera can also become a home shopping program.

Intelligent agents that perform tasks ranging from buying or selling your goods on the Internet, to rating the reliability of Internet buyers and sellers.

Intra-body signaling mechanisms that literally turn your body into a data network. Now your eyeglasses and wristwatch can become displays for your shoe computer, and familiar gestures can take on new digital meanings as you exchange business cards through a handshake or unlock a doorknob by touching it.

Audio Spotlight, which uses ultrasound to project audio to highly specific locations, so that a person standing only a few feet away from someone else can be listening to an entirely different broadcast, with no distraction.


In Fiscal Year 1999, the Media Laboratory's total sponsor volume exceeded $20 million, with $18.4 million of this (92 percent) coming from corporate sponsors. The remaining $1.6 million came from government funding and subcontracts through other universities.

New directed research sponsors included: Becton Dickinson, which supported Professor Neil Gershenfeld in the area of medical interface technologies; Microsoft, which supported Professor Gershenfeld in areas of quantum computing, printed devices, circuits, displays, and wireless electronic interfaces, as well as Professor Alex Pentland, in such areas as perceptual-use interfaces, smart environments, wearable computers, vision tools for learning environments, and visual perception of action; Shiseido, which supported Professor John Maeda and his Aesthetics and Computation group; and SAP, which provided a grant to support Professor Rosalind Picard's research in the area of affective computing.

Two longtime Media Laboratory sponsors, The LEGO Group and Motorola, Inc. have raised their support to become Corporate Research sponsors, which gives these companies membership in all of the Lab's consortia and special interest groups.

New sponsors joining the Lab's three consortia include:

Digital Life: Ameritrade, Industrial Technical Research Institute, Intracom, and Iomega.

News in the Future: AARP

Things That Think: British Airways, Cyrano, DuPont, Escher Group, Ltd., Lucent Technologies, Merloni Elettrodomestici, NEC Technologies, Inc., and Telenor R&D


Within the past two years, the Laboratory organized several smaller, more focused Special Interest Groups (SIGs).

Broadercasting looks at broadcasting in a broader way, as all aspects of the media business–from content capture to delivery–become digital, and as a new generation of viewers/listeners develops who cannot remember when PCs and the Internet did not exist. The group pursues projects related to four themes: developing new production and post-production methods; creating program material with responsive behaviors; broadcasting to a variety of devices beyond traditional television and radio receivers; and enabling anyone to produce and broadcast video and audio content.

CC++ explores the implications and applications of human-machine interface research, advances in personalized information technologies, the increasing interconnectivity of automobiles, new design technologies and methodologies, and the attitudes of drivers to their vehicles. It includes: autos as interface–the driver's information environment; cars with connections–implications and applications of highly dense, high-bandwidth communications among nearby automobiles and with the surrounding areas; design and concept studies–including novel input and output modalities for automobile development and use; and studies of individual drivers, and communities of drivers, as their experiences are shaped by automobiles. Its first members are Ford Motor Company and General Motors Corporation.

Counter Intelligence is focused on developing a digitally connected, self-aware kitchen with knowledge and memory of its activities. The program will explore new foods, new technologies for preparing food, and new social interactions that will arise in the kitchen of the future. The plan is to invent and experiment with new utensils, appliances, and communications media that can be applied in domestic settings. Unlike an office or a living room, the kitchen is the locus of the most intense family interaction, as well as much tool and appliance usage. This makes it a fundamentally interesting context for new research. Members are Kraft Foods, Inc., Merloni Elettrodomestici, and Unilever.

Gray Matters explores how computation and communication can enrich the lives of older persons now and in the decades ahead. It focuses on making the "third age" more fun, more energized, and more connected than ever before. Longer lifespans and better technologies mean more opportunities for new experiences, from wearable computing to online communities. Its first member is AARP.

Penny PC looks at merging the great attributes of paper with the benefits of digital technology. It involves work on printed electronics, including printed transistors, printed memory, printed sensors (optical, thermal, magnetic), and desktop manufacturing; printed novel chemistries for remote identification and smart packaging; and printed MEMS (micro-electromechanical systems) for medical, biochemical, and consumer electronics purposes. Sponsors are: Agfa-Gevaert, Becton Dickinson and Company, DuPont, Hewlett-Packard, Intracom, International Business Machines, Lucent Technologies, The Procter & Gamble Company, Roche Diagnostics Corporation, SCA Research AB, Time Inc. Production, and TOPPAN Printing Co., Ltd.

Toys of Tomorrow (formerly identified as a consortium), explores ways that the digital revolution will transform the world of toys and play: old toys will become smarter; new toys will become possible; all toys will become connected. In the past, new technologies were born in the workplace, and ended up in toys. In the future, toys will be the trendsetters, setting the standard for a digital infrastructure that really works–and really plays. Sponsors are: Acer Incorporated, Bandal, Deutsche Telecom AG, Energizer, Hasbro, Intel, International Olympic Committee, Interval Research corporation, Mattel, Inc., Nickelodeon, Polar Electro Oy, and Tomy Company. Ltd.


Several of the Lab's most generous sponsors continued to support the Laboratory through corporate fellowship programs. In total, seven corporations supported fellowship programs during FY'99.

The newest corporate sponsors of a Media Lab fellowship program were BT, and Merrill Lynch. BT provided funding for seven fellows: Brian Clarkson, Joseph Pompei, Nitin Sawhney, Zoe Teegarden, Neil Van Dyke, Adrriana Vivacqua, and Craig Wisneski, and Merrill Lunch supported Bradley Rhodes and Jennifer Smith.

AT&T, IBM, Interval Research Corporation, Motorola, and Telecom Italia continued ongoing programs, supporting the following fellows:

AT&T: Karrie Karahalios, Stefan Marti, Nelson Minar, Robert Poor, and Deb Roy.

IBM: Vadim Gerasimov, Daniel Gruhl, Golan Levin, Teresa Marrin, Bakhtiar Mikhak, Brygg Ullmer, and David Wang.

Interval Research Corporation: Phil Frei, Christopher Kline, Tara Rosenberger, and Paris Smaragdis.

Motorola: Pascal Chesnais, Rich Fletcher, Kwin Kramer, Chris Metcalf,e Matt Reynolds, and Brent Ridley.

Fellows were: Rick Borovoy, Lenny Foner, Rob Guttman, Reed Kram, and Flavia Sparacino.

Telecom Italia: Ingeborg Endter, Ken Russell, Flavia Sparacino, Sunil Vemuri, and Giorgos Zacharia.

In 1998, Tom White was named the M.M. Chanowski Fellow, and Paul Yarin was named MERL Fellow.

In March 1999, the Media Lab announced a $5-million grant from the Motorola Semiconductor Products Sector to establish the Motorola DigitalDNA Laboratory. The new lab will pioneer new concepts in embedded computation, forming the basis of tomorrow's smart devices–devices that not only communicate easily with humans, but also with each other.

The Media Laboratory also received a $5-million grant from the LEGO Group to establish a LEGO Learning Laboratory at the MIT Media Laboratory. The LEGO Learning Laboratory will focus on the development of new play-oriented, construction-oriented technologies for children–and also the development of new theories about children's play, learning, and imagination.

Both new laboratories, which will have temporary homes in the current Media Lab building, will be relocated to the new building when it is completed.

In Fiscal ‘99, the Media Laboratory received over $1.5 million in equipment gifts from the following companies: Compaq, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Mitsubishi, Motorola, Toshiba, and Volvo.


Bruce Bullock joined the Laboratory as chief administrative officer/managing director in April 1999. Mr. Bullock, who has previously been instrumental in getting four companies off the ground, was most recently involved with ISX Corporation, a California software company that served the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries, educational institutions, and government. He was the company's chief executive officer from 1983 to 1996, and from 1996 to 1998 served as the chairman of the board and director of strategic projects.

Polly Guggenheim joined the Laboratory as finance/functions coordinator for the Digital Life consortium in August 1998. Previously, Guggenheim worked as a financial manager for several organizations, and had founded and managed a restaurant in Cambridge.

Julie Fresina joined the Laboratory as facilities coordinator in December 1998. Ms. Fresina transferred from the MIT Facilities Department where she worked on the support staff from 1996; she also served as a project team leader for employee orientation for MIT Human Resource.

The Laboratory appointed two new research scientists and extended the appointment of another during 1998-99: Steven Schwartz was given a three-year appointment as research scientist in the Vision and Modeling group, beginning October 1998. Mr. Schwartz replaced Hong Tan, who left the Laboratory to accept a faculty position at Purdue University. Erik Mueller was given a six-month appointment as research scientist working with Professor Marvin Minsky, beginning in February 1999. Fred Martin's research scientist appointment in the Epistemology and Learning group was extended for another three years, through May 2002.

The Laboratory appointed three new technical staff members during 1998—99: David Berger joined as systems/network engineer in the Perceptual Computing group in October 1998, replacing Erik Trimble who left the Laboratory to relocate to California. Michael Genrich joined as administrative computer support specialist in September 1998, replacing Tomas Revesz who left the Lab to accept another position. Elizabeth Harvey-Forsythe joined as systems programmer/engineer in May 1999, replacing Scott Gunn, who left the Lab to accept another position.

Two staff members from BT Laboratories were appointed as research affiliates to the Laboratory: Graham Cosier was appointed from October 1, 1998 to September 30, 1999, and Alexander Loffler was appointed from December 3, 1998 to December 3, 1999.

Alain Mignault was appointed as visiting scholar in the Vision and Modeling group from January 25, 1999 to January 25, 2001.

Dr. Joseph Paradiso was promoted from research scientist to principal research scientist in July 1998.

Susan Murphy Bottari became project coordinator for the Penny PC special interest group in May 1999. Melissa Yoon was promoted from assistant fiscal officer to fiscal officer in the Finance and Administration group in May 1999.

Robert Bloomberg, who served as associate director of administration and finance for the past three years, left the laboratory to accept another position. Gerald Hornik, manager of equipment and telecommunications, left in September 1998. Demetrios Paneras, webmaster for the laboratory, left in April 1999 to relocate to Greece.

More information about the Media Laboratory can be found at

Nicholas Negroponte

Media Laboratory Sponsors


The LEGO Group
Motorola, Inc.

*Members of all consortia and special interest groups


Digital Life (DL)
Acer Incorporated
American International Group, Inc.
Ameritrade Holding Corporation
Avid Technology
Bell Canada
Bertelsmann AG/BMG Entertainment
Citibank N.A.
Compaq Computer Corporation, TandemDivision
Eastman Kodak
Ford Motor Company
France Telecom/CNET
Fuji Xerox Co. Ltd.
Hakuhodo Incorporated
Honeywell, Inc.
Hong Kong Telecom IMS Ltd.
Hughes Electronics
Kodansha Ltd., Publishers
Merrill Lynch
Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co.
NIKE, Inc.
Nortel Networks
Panasonic Technologies, Inc.
Philip Morris Companies, Inc.
Philips Research Laboratories
R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company
Sainsbury Supermarkets, Ltd.
SAIC/Telcordia Technologies
Saritel S.p.A.
Seiko Epson Corporation
Siemens Nixdorf Information Systems
Southwestern Bell Technology
Resources Inc.
Starlab Research Labs
STMicroelectronics S.r.l.
Tele Danmark
Telia Research AB
3Com Corporation
TOPPAN Printing Co., Ltd.
Viacom International
WPP Group plc
Xerox Corporation


Ford Motor Company
General Motors Corporation
Counter Intelligence
Kraft Foods, Inc.
Merloni Elettrodomestici
Gray Matters
Penny PC
Becton Dickinson and Company
International Business Machines
Lucent Technologies
The Procter & Gamble Company
Roche Diagnostics Corporation
SCA Research AB
Time Inc. Production
TOPPAN Printing Co., Ltd.
Toys of Tomorrow (TOT)
Acer Incorporated
Deutsche Telekom AG
International Olympic Committee
Interval Research Corporation
Mattel, Inc.
Polar Electro Oy
Tomy Company


Central Intelligence Agency
Department of the Army
Deutsche Telekom Berkom GMBH
Honda R&D Co., Ltd.
International Business Machines
Microsoft Corporation
National Science Foundation
Nortel Networks
Office of Naval Research
The Procter & Gamble Company
University of California, Berkeley
University of Maryland


ADVO, Inc.
Canon Inc.
GeoPartners Research, Inc.
Nippon Columbia Co., Ltd.
Storage Technology Corporation

News in the Future (NiF)

ABC, Inc.
Advance Publications, Inc.
Alma Media
BellSouth Enterprises, Inc.
The Chronicle Publishing Company
Corporation for Public Broadcasting
Eastman Kodak
Gannett Co., Inc.
General Motors Cyberworks
Grupo Clarín
Grupo Estado
Gruppo Editoriale L'Espresso Spa
Hearst Corporation
International Business Machines
International Olympic Committee
Johnson & Johnson
Karstadt AG
McCann-Erickson Worldwide
The National Library of Medicine
NY Times/Globe
The SABRE Group
Sun Microsystems
Time Inc. Production
Tribune Company

Things That Think (TTT)

American Greetings Corporation
AMP, Inc.
Analog Devices, Inc.
Artificial Life, Inc.
Avery Dennison Corporation
Becton Dickinson and Company
British Airways
Brother Industries, Ltd.
Creative Technology, Ltd.
Cyrano Sciences, Inc.
Deutsche Telekom AG
The Charles Stark Draper
Laboratory, Inc.
Escher Group, Ltd.
Federal Express Corporation
The Gillette Company
Hewlett-Packard Company
Interval Research Corporation
Levi Strauss & Co.
Lucent Technologies
MasterCard International
Mattel, Inc.
Merloni Elettrodomestici
Microsoft Corporation
Minolta Co., Ltd.
NEC Technologies, Inc.
NIKE, Inc.
Nokia Corporation
The Procter & Gamble Company
Roche Diagnostics Corporation


Rudge and Nancy Allen
Asahi Broadcasting Corporation
AT&T Corp.
Armand and Celeste Bartos
Alex Dreyfoos, Jr.
Fukutake Publishing
The LEGO Group
LG Electronics, Inc.
Misawa Homes
Motorola, Inc.
Isao Okawa
Philippe Villers

Muriel R. Cooper Memorial

DDP Digital Publishing, Inc.
Origin/Media Lab BV
SCA Research AB
Sensormatic Electronics Corp.
Steelcase Inc.
Swatch AG
Symbol Technologies, Inc.
Telenor R&D
Tomy Company, Ltd.
Trimble Navigation Limited
Unisys Corporation
United Technologies
VISA International
Walt Disney Imagineering
R&D, Inc.


AMP, Inc.
ASCII Corporation
Bay Networks, Inc.
Canon Inc.
Compaq Computer Corporation
CSK Corporation
M.M. Chanowski
Heller Werkstatt
The LEGO Group
Interval Research Corporation
Mitsubishi Electric
Motorola, Inc.
Silicon Graphics, Inc.
Suksapattana Foundation
Telecom Italia

MIT Reports to the President 1998-99