Information Ecology
How to create seamless and pervasive connections between our physical environments and information resources.
We have become reliant on digital information for communication, commerce, and entertainment. This information needs to be always available, whether stored locally on our computers, on enterprise servers at work, or via third-party services like GMail. Most importantly, we should have choices beyond desktop computers or smartphones to access it. The Information Ecology group explores ways to connect our physical environments with information resources. Through the use of low-cost, ubiquitous technologies such as sensors and consumer electronics, we are creating seamless and pervasive ways to interact with our information—and with each other.

Research Projects

  • 8D Display

    Henry Holtzman, Matt Hirsch and Shahram Izadi

    The 8D Display combines a glasses-free 3D display (4D light field output) with a relightable display (4D light field input). The ultimate effect of this extension to our earlier BiDi Screen project will be a display capable of showing physically realistic objects that respond to scene lighting as we would expect. Imagine a shiny virtual teapot in which you see your own reflection, a 3D model that can be lighted with a real flashlight to expose small surface features, or a virtual flashlight that illuminates real objects in front of the display. As the 8D Display captures light field input, gestural interaction as seen in the BiDi Screen project is also possible.

  • Flow

    Robert Hemsley and Henry Holtzman

    Flow is an augmented interaction project that bridges the divide between our non-digital objects and items and our ecosystem of connected devices. By using computer vision, Flow enables our traditional interactions to be augmented with digital meaning, thus allowing an event in one environment to flow into the next. Through this, physical actions such as tearing a document can have a mirrored effect and meaning in our digital environment, leading to actions such as the deletion of the associated digital file. This project is part of an initial exploration that focuses on creating an augmented interaction overlay for our environment, enabling users to redefine their physical actions.

  • MindRider

    Arlene Ducao and Henry Holtzman

    MindRider is a helmet that translates electroencephalogram (EEG) feedback into an embedded LED display. For the wearer, green lights indicate a focused, active mental state, while red lights indicate drowsiness, anxiety, and other states not conducive to operating a bike or vehicle. Flashing red lights indicate extreme anxiety (panic). As many people return to cycling as a primary means of transportation, MindRider can support safety by adding visibility and increased awareness to the cyclist/motorist interaction process. In future versions, MindRider may be outfitted with an expanded set of EEG contacts, GPS radio, non-helmet wearable visualization, and other features to increase the cyclist's awareness of self and environment. These features may also allow for hands-free control of cycle function. A networked set of MindRiders may be useful for urban planning and emergency response situations.

  • ShAir: A Platform for Mobile Content Sharing

    Yosuke Bando, Daniel Dubois, Konosuke Watanabe and Henry Holtzman

    ShAir is a platform for instantly and easily creating local content-shareable spaces without requiring an Internet connection or location information. ShAir-enabled devices can opportunistically communicate with other mobile devices and optional pervasive storage devices such as WiFi SD cards whenever they enter the radio range of each other. Digital content can hop through devices in the background without user intervention. Applications that can be built on top of the platform include ad-hoc photo/video/music sharing and distribution, opportunistic social networking and games, digital business card exchange during meetings and conferences, and local news article sharing on trains and buses.

  • SuperShoes

    Dhairya Dand and Henry Holtzman

    Our smartphones take active attention while we use them to navigate streets, find restaurants, meet friends, and remind us of tasks. SuperShoes allows us to access this information in a physical, ambient form through a foot interface. SuperShoes takes us to our destination; senses interesting people, places, and events in our proximity; and notifies us about tasks, all while we immerse ourselves in the environment. We explore a physical language of interaction afforded by the foot through various tactile senses. By weaving digital bits into the shoes, SuperShoes liberates information from the confines of screens and onto the body.

  • Tactile Allegory

    V. Michael Bove, Henry Holtzman and Philippa Mothersill

    We have an unconscious understanding of the meaning of different physical objects through our extensive interactions with them. Designers can extend and adapt the existing symbolic meanings through the design of these objects, adding a layer of emotive expression by manipulating their forms. Tactile Allegory explores the physical design language encoded into objects and asks: how can objects be computationally designed to communicate specific information through their very forms? This research explores the underlying design ‘grammar’ of the form of objects, particularly how objects can communicate information to us through their form. This framework is used to create a computational design tool to to help people design expressively shaped objects that can express higher-level sentiments of their ideas via aesthetic forms.

  • The Glass Infrastructure (GI)

    Henry Holtzman, Andy Lippman, Jon Ferguson and Julia Shuhong Ma

    This project builds a social, place-based information window into the Media Lab using 30 touch-sensitive screens strategically placed throughout the physical complex and at sponsor sites. The idea is get people to talk among themselves about the work that they jointly explore in a public place. We present Lab projects as dynamically connected sets of "charms" that visitors can save, trade, and explore. The GI demonstrates a framework for an open, integrated IT system and shows new uses for it.