MIT Reports to the President 1997-98


In the past few years, the Media Laboratory has become increasingly focused on new and unpredictable ways to integrate a world of electronic bits with our familiar world of atoms. Last October we took the idea one step further when the Lab hosted Wearables, a major one-day symposium on the future of wearable computing. On that day, some 1,500 attendees were treated to a preview of cyberfashion: what will happen when computing leaves the desktop and is embedded in hats that send e-mail, vests that offer simultaneous translations, and earrings that are cellular phones.

If nothing else, this brief look at cyberfashion reminded us just how far we've come since "computation" meant a bulky computer sitting on an office desk. Each year, the Media Laboratory seeks to find creative new ways to make the newly emerging digital world more livable: from sensors that can tell a car's airbag when-and when not-to release; to intelligent agents capable of recommending which tomato plants will grow best in your garden; to "affective" computers capable of using "emotional intelligence" to respond to their users. But with the enormous progress comes a new concern: the growing gap between the digital "haves" and "have nots"-especially among the world's children.

During the past year, the Media Laboratory has undertaken several pioneering initiatives to help ensure that children throughout the world-from those who use a computer on a daily basis to those who don't know what a computer is-all have access to the vast opportunities offered by an online world. As a first step toward this, in July 1997 the Media Lab hosted some 200 activists, educators, politicians, and technologists from 45 countries who met for a World Workshop on the Digital Future of Children, Learning, and Developing Nations. The gathering, jointly sponsored by the 2B1 Foundation and the Media Laboratory, explored ways to build an imaginative, global network of children.

Later in 1998, the lab is undertaking an even more ambitious effort: Junior Summit '98, which will seek to give children everywhere a voice in shaping the world they will inherit. The summit will begin in August 1998 with an online forum involving approximately 1,000 children, ages 10 to 16. It will culminate in a week-long gathering at the Media Lab in November, where children from around the world will have an opportunity to formulate their ideas and present the results to corporate leaders and political dignitaries.


A sampling of 1997-98 Media Laboratory research accomplishments includes:

Electronic Paper, which combines all the great attributes of paper, but adds the benefits of digital technology. Imagine, for example, real paper that can display video images, or a desktop printer that can print out a working Tamagotchi electronic toy.

Lazy Fish, the newest development in electronic field sensing technology, where a miniature electronics board (only 1.5"x2.5") will eventually allow the user to interact even with everyday objects with just a wave of the hand.

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.

A holo-haptic interface system, which combines computational haptics and electronic holography in a major step toward the development of an interactive, holographic workstation that operates in real time.

Project Lighthouse, a pioneering educational initiative in Thailand, which focuses on developing hands-on, immersive learning environments to explore how the computer and other technologies can be used to radically change the way we learn.

The first experimental implementation (with Dr. Isaac Chuang of IBM) of a working quantum computer, which solved a problem in fewer steps than a classical computer.

Structured Audio technology, which is capable of delivering the most complex, high-quality digital sounds quickly and at lower bandwidths, without losing quality. This pioneering technology will soon become part of MPEG-4, the world's first international standard for sound synthesis.

A Smart Mousepad, which can "see" an electronically tagged item placed on its surface, and then call up an appropriate Internet site in response.

Development of small, wearable Bio- and GeoPaks, which "wire" people to provide critical health or environmental feedback. These were put to the test during Everest Extreme Team Expedition in May 1998, when climbers wore these packs to provide feedback on heart rate, blood oxygen level, and body temperature, as well as weather conditions.

The development of a Luminous Room system, which turns an ordinary architectural space into an interface between people and digital information-pictures, text, or even live video. The first application of this system turns an ordinary tabletop into an optical workbench for designing holographic images.

Creation (with NearLife Inc. and Boston's Computer Museum) of the Virtual Fishtank, a major $1-million exhibit at the Computer Museum, which incorporates the latest advances in 3-D computer modeling, animation, and sensor technology. Visitors design their own artificial fish and then watch them interact in a giant virtual tank. This exhibit helps demonstrate how complex patterns arise from simple rules in many different situations-whether fish tanks, traffic jams, or economic markets.

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 1998, the Media Laboratory's research volume grew to $15.5 million-a 14 percent increase over last year. Some 86 percent ($13.4 million) of this funding came from corporate support. An additional 8 percent ($1.2 million) came from U.S. government agencies (NSF and the Department of Defense), with the remaining 6 percent ($850,000) coming from Department of Defense subcontracts through other universities.

New directed research sponsors included: ASCII Corporation, which supported Professor Michael Hawley's Black Boxes project; Duracell, which supported Professor Joseph Jacobson's work on printed electronics; Honda R&D, which supported the Spatial Imaging group's work on developing computer-generated holograms for automotive CAD; Nortel, which provided a grant for research scientist Joseph Paradiso's work on new sensors for telecommunications; and Procter & Gamble, which supported research related to product usage and tracking.

The Media Laboratory initiated one new consortium in FY' 98: Toys of Tomorrow (TOT), a five-year research program to explore ways that the digital revolution will transform the world of toys and play. TOT focuses on inventing a new generation of toys-and creating new forms of playing, learning, designing, and storytelling. 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 standards for a digital infrastructure that really works-and really plays. As of June 30, 1998, TOT sponsoring companies include: Acer Incorporated; Bandai; Deutsche Telekom AG; Energizer; Intel; International Olympic Committee; LEGO Futura A/S; Mattel, Inc.; Motorola, Inc.; Nickelodeon; Polar Electro Oy; and Tomy Company, Ltd.

New sponsors joining the lab's three ongoing consortia include:

Digital Life: Acer Incorporated; Avid Technology; France Telecom/CNET; and Honeywell, Inc.

News in the Future: General Motors Cyberworks; The SABRE Group; The National Library of Medicine; and the International Olympic Committee.

Things That Think: Avery Dennison Corporation; The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Inc.; Mattel, Inc.; Minolta Co., Ltd.; and Unisys Corporation.

New members of the lab's Media Technology Group (MTG) include: ADVO, Inc.; GeoPartners Research, Inc.; Shiseido; and Storage Technology Corporation.

Finding increased support for the Media Laboratory's graduate students has been a high priority during FY '98. Toward this end, the lab was pleased to announce the addition of IBM Media Lab Fellows. The six students selected for these fellowships were: Joey Berzowska, Peter Cho, Raul Fernandez, Jon Orwant, David Small, and Paul Yarin.

AT&T also continued to support the laboratory through funding for students. The following were named AT&T Media Laboratory Fellows for 1998: Nelson Minar, Alexandros Moukas, Deb Roy, Mukesh Singh, and Alan Wexelblat.

Interval Research Corporation Fellows for 1997-98 were: Matt Gorbet, Matt Grenby, Rehmi Post, Brent Ridley, and Warren Sack.

The following students were named 1997-98 Motorola Fellows: Pascal Chesnais, Rich Fletcher, Kwin Kramer, Nuria Oliver, Rob Poor, and Matt Reynolds.

Mitsubishi Electric Research Corporation renewed its fellowship program, supporting three students this year: Ravikanth Pappu, Wendy Plesniak, and Brygg Ullmer.

1997-98 Telecom Italia Fellows were: Rick Borovoy, Lenny Foner, Rob Guttman, Reed Kram, and Flavia Sparacino.

Eastman Kodak Company continued to support Phillip Tiongson as the 1997-98 Kodak Fellow, and in the spring of 1998, Tom White was named the M.M. Chanowski Fellow.

In Fiscal 1998, the Media Laboratory received close to $3 million in gifts of equipment:

Digital Equipment Corporation gave two gifts of laptops, PCs, monitors, workstations, servers, network switches, and other miscellaneous equipment valued at more than $1.9 million.

Hewlett-Packard Company gave a recipient-enhanced grant of laptops, palmtops, digital cameras, and other equipment, as well as test equipment for Professor Neil Gershenfeld's laboratory, for a total value of $238,000.

Canon donated seven copiers worth $242,000.

Motorola, Inc. gave the lab more than 200 StarMax computers valued at $149,000.

AMP, Inc. provided the lab with a gift of $163,000 worth of fiber optic cables.

Electro Sales provided Professor Joseph Jacobson with electronic equipment valued at $94,000.

Mitsubishi gave the lab 21 monitors worth $74,000.

Intel provided five computers worth $52,000 to Professor John Maeda.

Sony provided Professor Alex Pentland with equipment worth $13,000.



Alexandra Kahn joined the lab as press liaison in November 1997, following the departure of Valerie Eames Minard. Ms. Kahn had been working in communications and public relations for high-technology companies for the past 12 years, most recently as public relations specialist for Softbank Services Group.

John Henriques joined the laboratory as fiscal officer in October 1997. He came to the laboratory from MIT's Information Systems, and previously served as a financial manager for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Boston Housing Authority.

V. Michael Bove, Jr., formerly associate professor in the Program in Media Arts & Sciences, was appointed principal research scientist in the lab's Object-Based Media group, effective July 1997.

Ronald MacNeil, principal research associate, moved from the Media Laboratory to the Department of Architecture.

In March 1998, Scott Gunn assumed a one-year research associate appointment to work on the Junior Summit '98.

Steven Smith joined the laboratory as a research specialist in the Spatial Imaging group in October 1997, replacing Michael Klug, who left the lab to start his own business. Mr. Smith came to the lab from a long career as a commercial holographer.

The laboratory appointed one new technical staff member and extended the appointment of another during 1997-98: Fred Donovan joined as systems/network engineer in April 1998, replacing Matthew Trunnell. Erik Trimble's appointment as systems/network engineer in the Vision and Modeling group was extended from January 23, 1998 through January 22, 2001.


Hisashi Aoki from Toshiba Corporation was appointed research affiliate for the period March 1, 1998 to September 30, 1999.

Patrick Hughes from British Telecom Laboratories was appointed research affiliate for the period June 1, 1998 to May 31, 1999.

Henry Strub from Interval Research was appointed visiting scientist for one month beginning April 28, 1998.

Paul Rankin from Philips Research Laboratory was appointed visiting scientist for two months beginning January 13, 1998.


After more than 20 years at the Media Laboratory, Richard Bolt retired from his position as senior research scientist in December 1997. Valerie Eames Minard, who served as the laboratory's press liaison for the past six years, resigned to relocate. Laureen Chapman, the lab's financial coordinator, left in January 1998 after ten years of service.


There were several promotions of sponsored research administrative staff members during FY '98: Ellen Hoffman was promoted to associate director of publications for the Communications and Sponsor Relations group; Jacqueline Karaaslanian was promoted to program manager in the Epistemology and Learning group; and Felice Napolitano Gardner was promoted to executive coordinator for Mr. Bender's office, and project coordinator of the News in the Future Consortium in July 1997.

Several members of the Lab's support staff were also promoted to sponsored research administrative staff positions: Kristin Hall was named financial coordinator for the Things That Think consortium; Betty Lou McClanahan became project coordinator for C++, a new car consortium to be announced in the summer of 1998; and Melissa Yoon is now assistant fiscal officer in the Finance and Administration group.

More information about the Media Laboratory can be found on the World Wide Web at the following URL:

Nicholas Negroponte



Digital Life (DL)
Acer Incorporated
American International Group, Inc.
Avid Technology
Bell Canada
Bertelsmann AG/BMG Entertainment
Citibank N.A.
Eastman Kodak
France Telecom/CNET
Fuji Xerox Co. Ltd.
Hakuhodo Incorporated
Honeywell, Inc.
Hong Kong Telecom IMS Ltd.
Hughes Electronics
Kodansha Ltd., Publishers
LEGO Futura ApS
Merrill Lynch
Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co.
NIKE, Inc.
Panasonic Technologies, Inc.
Perot Systems Corporation
Philip Morris Companies, Inc.
Philips Research Laboratories
Riverland Holding
R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company
SAIC/Bell Communications Research
Saritel S.p.A.
Seiko Epson Corporation
SGS Thomson Microelectronics
Siemens Nixdorf Information Systems
Southwestern Bell Technology
Resources Inc.
Tandem Computers, Inc.
Tele Danmark
Televisa s.a. de c.v.
3Com Corporation
TOPPAN Printing Co., Ltd.
Viacom International
WPP Group plc
Xerox 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
Editoriale L'Espresso S.p.A.
Gannett Co., Inc.
General Motors Cyberworks
Grupo Clarín
Grupo Estado
Hearst Corporation
International Business Machines
International Olympic Committee
Johnson & Johnson
McCann-Erickson Worldwide
The National Library of Medicine
NY Times/Globe
The SABRE Group
Sun Microsystems
Tribune Company

Things That Think (TTT)

American Greetings Corporation
AMP, Inc.
Analog Devices, Inc.
Artificial Life, Inc.
ASCII Corporation
AT&T Corp.
Avery Dennison Corporation
Becton Dickinson and Company
Brother Industries, Ltd.
Creative Technology, Ltd.
Deutsche Telekom AG
The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Inc.
Federal Express Corporation
The Gillette Company
Hewlett-Packard Company
Interval Research Corporation
Karstadt AG
The LEGO Group
Levi Strauss & Co.
Lord Corporation
MasterCard International
Mattel, Inc.
Microsoft Corporation
Minolta Co., Ltd.
Motorola, Inc.
National Semiconductor Corporation
NIKE, Inc.
Nokia Corporation
Oki America, Inc.
The Procter & Gamble Company
SEGA of America, Inc.
Sensormatic Electronics Corp.
Siemens AG
Steelcase Inc.
Swatch AG
Symbol Technologies, Inc.
Telia Research AB
3Com Corporation
Trimble Navigation Limited
Unisys Corporation
United Technologies Corporation
VISA International
Walt Disney Imagineering
YAMAHA Corporation

Toys of Tomorrow (TOT)

Acer Incorporated
Deutsche Telekom AG
International Olympic Committee
LEGO Futura A/S
Mattel, Inc.
Motorola, Inc.
Polar Electro Oy
Tomy Company, Ltd.


ADVO, Inc.
Canon Inc.
GeoPartners Research, Inc.
Goldman, Sachs & Co.
Nippon Columbia Co., Ltd.
J. Sainsbury plc
Scitex Corporation, Ltd.
Storage Technology Corporation


ASCII Corporation
Central Intelligence Agency
Department of the Army
Department of Transportation
Deutsche Telekom Berkom GMBH
Honda R&D Co., Ltd.
International Business Machines
LEGO Futura ApS
Microsoft Corporation
National Science Foundation
Office of Naval Research
University of California, Berkeley
University of Maryland


AMP, Inc.
ATR Media Integration &
Communications Research Laboratories
AT&T Corp.
Bay Networks, Inc.
Canon Inc.
M.M. Chanowski
Digital Equipment Corporation
FORE Systems, Inc.
Interlego A/S
Interval Research Corporation
Mitsubishi Electric
Motorola, Inc.
Silicon Graphics, Inc.
Telecom Italia


Brain Opera

Ars Electronica Center
Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation
Heller Werkstatt
Kravis Center for the Performing Arts
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
NTT Data



Rudge and Nancy Allen
Asahi Broadcasting Corporation
AT&T Corp.
Armand and Celeste Bartos
Alex Dreyfoos, Jr.
Fukutake Publishing
Interlego A/S
LG Electronics, Inc.
Misawa Homes
Philippe Villers
Muriel R. Cooper Memorial Professorship
DDP Digital Publishing, Inc.
Origin/Media Lab BV
Sarah Dickinson Memorial Fund


MIT Reports to the President 1997-98