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In his meeting with Reif — along with senior research scientist and Media Lab associate director Andrew Lippman; Jenny Liu, associate director of global initiatives in MIT Resource Development; and David Lakatos, a 2012 Media Lab alumnus from Hungary — Áder expressed interest in fostering innovation and entrepreneurship to help ensure that students leaving Hungary to study abroad would return.
Accompanied by Lippman, Lakatos, and a delegation that included members of the Hungarian press, Áder visited four of the Media Lab’s research groups: Tangible Media, Changing Places, Personal Robots, and Lifelong Kindergarten.
At the Tangible Media group, Hiroshi Ishii, the Jerome B. Wiesner Professor of Media Arts and Sciences and Media Lab associate director, demonstrated several projects that integrate the “atoms” of the physical world with the “bits” of the digital world, including inFORM, a dynamically changing, 3-D user interface that allows for real-time input through direct touch and tangible interaction.
At the Changing Places group, Ryan Chin, managing director of the Media Lab’s City Science Initiative, and graduate student Ira Winder demonstrated CityScope, a next-generation modeling tool for cities. They showed how they built a physical model of Kendall Square using LEGO bricks, and then overlaid digital information to create a tangible, 3-D environment. They explained that CityScope — which can be scaled to model entire cities — can become a powerful decision-making tool for experts, as well as an effective education and awareness tool for the public. The Changing Places group and City Science Initiative are headed by principal research scientist Kent Larson.
The delegation then visited the Media Lab’s Personal Robots group, where PhD student Sigurdur Orn discussed the group’s work to develop robots that relate to humans in a more natural way. He gave examples of robots that become learning companions for children and a robot whose purpose was to help people lose weight. Örn told Áder that the group’s robots are intended to augment human interactions, helping where current tools are not particularly effective.
The final stop on the Media Lab tour was the Lifelong Kindergarten group, where Mitchel Resnick, the LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research, discussed the group’s constructionist learning philosophy, which stresses the importance of learning by doing. He demonstrated a toy that moves more quickly in response to voice cues, as well as the open-source Scratch programming language developed by the group. Resnick explained that Scratch enables children (generally ages 8 and up) to create their own interactive stories, games, music, and animations for the Web; Scratch has reached a worldwide audience, with close to 2 million users registered and nearly 4 million projects uploaded. Áder commented, through an interpreter, “When I was growing up, I only had storybooks!”