Mission and History

At the Media Lab, the future is lived, not imagined. In a world where radical technology advances are taken for granted, Media Lab researchers design technologies for people to create a better future.

Now in its 27th year, the MIT Media Lab is focusing on “human adaptability”—work ranging from initiatives to treat conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and depression, to sociable robots that can monitor the health of children or the elderly, to the development of smart prostheses that can mimic—or even exceed—the capabilities of our biological limbs.

The idea for the Media Lab came into being in 1980 by Professor Nicholas Negroponte and former MIT President and Science Advisor to President John F. Kennedy, Jerome Wiesner. The Lab grew out of the work of MIT's Architecture Machine Group, and remains within MIT's School of Architecture and Planning.

The Media Lab opened the doors to its I.M. Pei-designed Wiesner Building in 1985, and in its first decade was at the vanguard of the technology that enabled the “digital revolution” and enhanced human expression: innovative research ranging from cognition and learning, to electronic music, to holography. In its second decade, the Lab literally took computing out of the box, embedding the bits of the digital realm with the atoms of our physical world. This led to expanded research in wearable computing, wireless “viral” communications, machines with common sense, new forms of artistic expression, and innovative approaches to how children learn.

Now, in its third decade, the Media Lab continues to check traditional disciplines at the door. Future-obsessed product designers, nanotechnologists, data-visualization experts, industry researchers, and pioneers of computer interfaces work side by side to tirelessly invent—and reinvent—how humans experience, and can be aided by, technology.

Masthead: Rob Silvers (Photomosaic)