Research Highlights

A Camera That Can See Through Walls

Camera Culture Research Group's Time-of-Flight Microwave Camera

Modern cameras cannot see through fog, in the dark, or through walls, making the development of driverless vehicles or better search and rescue equipment difficult. Where visible light fails, radio waves can easily penetrate these obstructions; but, radar imaging devices are complex, low resolution, and unable to image certain geometries and angled surfaces. To address this, the Media Lab’s Camera Culture group has taken a camera-like approach to microwave imaging, resulting in a simpler camera architecture that can capture fuller 3D images through walls.  more ›

This new camera can inspect the contents of a box from outside of it; it resolves the contents by capturing 3D microwave images.

Unbounded High Dynamic Range Photography Using a Modulo Camera

Camera Culture group research may be the beginning of the end for over-saturated images

Trying to take pictures in the dark or through a window is difficult for professional photographers and everyday people alike. A group of researchers at MIT have proposed a camera that can take a perfect picture, no matter what the lighting contrast is. Called a “modulo camera,” this camera is designed to never overexpose an image, enabling high dynamic range photography. This achievement was awarded the best paper runner-up at the 2015 International Conference on Computational Photography.  more ›

New Faculty Publication

Why Information Grows:
The Evolution of Order, From Atoms to Economies

Cesar Hidalgo

An interdisciplinary theorist, Cesar Hidalgo, the Macro Connections group leader at the MIT Media Lab, invites us to understand the economy in an entirely different way.  more ›

Kirkus Reviews

The Media Lab Digital Currency Initiative

The goal of the Media Lab Digital Currency initiative is to bring together global experts in areas ranging from cryptography, to economics, to privacy, to distributed systems, to take on this important new area of research. The effort will reach across the MIT campus, and we look forward to including collaborations with leading experts around the world. Heading the initiative is Brian Forde, former senior White House ​advisor for ​mobile and ​data ​innovation.  more ›


FOLD is an authoring and publishing platform for creating modular, multimedia stories. Authors can search for and add “context cards” to their stories directly within the platform. Context cards can contain everything from videos, maps, tweets, music, interactive visualizations, and more. FOLD was created by Alexis Hope from the Civic Media group and Kevin Hu from the Macro Connections group, in collaboration with developer Joe Goldbeck.

Press about FOLD:  more ›


NailO is a wearable input device in the form of a fingernail art sticker. It works as a miniaturized trackpad that can connect to your mobile devices; it also enables wearers to customize the device to fit the wearer’s personal style. NailO was created by Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao of the Living Mobile group and Artem Dementyev of the Responsive Environments group.

Press about NailO:
NailO turns your fingernail into a tiny trackpad (CNET)  more ›

Unique in the Shopping Mall: On the reidentifiability of credit card metadata

In a new study published in Science, a group of researchers from the Human Dynamics group led by student Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye, found that "anonymized" credit card users could be reidentified with just a few pieces of information. The researchers analyzed transactions made by 1.1 million people in 10,000 stores over three months. Although the information had been “anonymized” by removing names and account numbers, each purchase made by the same credit card was tagged with the same random identification number.  more ›

Expansion Microscopy

New technique enables nanoscale-resolution microscopy of large biological specimens

In a new study published in Science, researchers from Ed Boyden's Synthetic Neurobiology group detail a new technique that allows them to use a polymer commonly found in diapers to physically enlarge brain tissue samples, enabling them to get high-resolution images of cellular activities. Learn more about how expansion microscopy works in this video, and explore the research and process in-depth at  more ›

White House Event to Feature Neurotechnology Architecting Network Leaders from MIT

Self-organizing network of innovators commits to developing a dozen new neurotechnologies

On September 30, 2014, the White House is hosting a BRAIN Initiative Conference to highlight commitments, investments, and progress by the Federal government, private sector companies, universities, and non-profit organizations to develop technologies to radically accelerate our understanding of the brain.  more ›


BioGlass and SenseGlass

Using Google Glass to Track Health and Emotional Wellbeing

What if you could see what calms you down or increases your stress as you go through your day? What if you could see clearly what is causing these changes for your child or another loved one? People could become better at accurately interpreting and communicating their feelings, and better at understanding the needs of those they love. This work explores the possibility of using sensors embedded in Google Glass, a head-mounted wearable device, to robustly measure physiological signals of the wearer.  more ›

Comments of Members of the MIT Media Lab in the Matter of FCC NPRM 14-28 “In the Matter of Promoting the Open Internet”

Comments of members of the MIT Media Lab in the matter of FCC NPRM 14-28 “In the Matter of Promoting the Open Internet”

Andrew Lippman, Associate Director, MIT Media Lab; Sr. Research Scientist

with contributions and research from
Edward L. Platt, MIT Media Lab
Jon Ferguson, MIT Media Lab
Scott Greenwald, MIT Media Lab

Summary  more ›


Hugh Herr at TED 2014: Defeating Disability with Bionics

Hugh Herr, head of the Lab's Biomechatronics research group, spoke at TED 2014 on March 19 about his group's work in creating bionic prosthetic limbs, and their goal to eliminate human disability through technology. To conclude his talk, he spoke about working with Boston Marathon bombing survivor Adrianne Haslet-Davis, a professional ballroom dancer who lost part of her leg in the attack. The group has spent the past 200 days developing a new prosthetic limb for Adrianne that would allow her to dance again.  more ›

Image Credit: 
James Duncan Davidson

Death and the Powers at The Dallas Opera

The Dallas Opera presents a new production of Tod Machover's Death and the Powers, February 12-16. The matinee performance on 2/16 will be simulcast to ten locations across the United States and Europe, including New York, San Francisco, London, and the Media Lab. In addition to viewing the live, hi-def broadcast of the production, the Powers Live mobile application, developed in the Opera of the Future group, allows viewers to virtually experience video, audio, and graphical content sync with the performance. By interacting with the app, viewers can also influence the live show in Dallas.  more ›

inFORM: An Interactive Dynamic Shape Display that Physically Renders 3D Content

Daniel Leithinger, Sean Follmer, Alex Olwal, Akimitsu Hogge, Hiroshi Ishii  more ›

inFORM project
Image Credit: 
Tangible Media Group, MIT Media Lab

Repertoire Remix: Q&A with Tod Machover and Tae Kim

Tod Machover and members of his group answered questions submitted during the Repertoire Remix event, and here they answer a few more for which they didn’t have time during the broadcast.

Question: Amazing! I am just missing Scarlatti...any chance? :-)  more ›


Grad student Xiao Xiao (Tangible Media) recently presented a talk about interactive music, featuring a performance on her project MirrorFugue, at both TEDxBoston and the Aspen Ideas Festival.

View her performance at TEDxBoston

View her performance at Aspen Ideas Festival

Tuning Social Networks to Gain the Wisdom of the Crowd

As we engage more with social networking sites, there is always the danger of a “group think” mentality–when people follow a group consensus rather than critically evaluate information; make decisions without guidance from the social network; or follow “gurus” who provide them with bad information. So how do we avoid these errors and maximize the “wisdom of the crowd”?  more ›

Slam Force Net Makes Its Debut

The Slam Dunk competition at the NBA All Star game (Feb. 25 at 8pm Eastern on TNT) will feature the Media Lab's Slam Force basketball net, which measures the energy of a dunk.

Courtesy of Turner Sports

Image Credit: 
Turner Sports

Commercial Version of the MIT Media Lab CityCar Unveiled in Brussels

A full-scale version of the stackable, electric CityCar, created by researchers at the MIT Media Lab and commercialized by a consortium of automotive suppliers in the Basque region of Spain, was unveiled at the European Union Commission headquarters on January 24, 2012.  more ›

Trillion-Frame-per-Second Video

By using optical equipment in a totally unexpected way, MIT researchers have created an imaging system that makes light look slow.

MIT researchers have created a new imaging system that can acquire visual data at a rate of one trillion exposures per second. That’s fast enough to produce a slow-motion video of a burst of light traveling the length of a one-liter bottle, bouncing off the cap and reflecting back to the bottle’s bottom.

Media Lab postdoc Andreas Velten, one of the system’s developers, calls it the “ultimate” in slow motion: “There’s nothing in the universe that looks fast to this camera,” he says.  more ›

Image Credit: 
M. Scott Brauer
Andreas Velten (L) and Ramesh Raskar with the experimental setup used to produce slow-motion video of light scattering through a bottle.
MIT News Office

Minecraft.Print(): Making the Virtual Real

Minecraft is a video game focused on creativity and building. Players build constructions out of textured cubes in a 3D world–everything from a hut, to a train station, to a fully functional computer. Why can't we take those virtual creations, and bring them into the real world? Minecraft.Print() is our attempt to do so by creating a bridge between Minecraft and the real world, via 3D printers. A Minecraft player defines a 3D space to be printed, after which the software extracts the object, structure, or other creation from the virtual space and creates 3D-printable version.  more ›

Hiroshi Ishii @ TEDxTokyo

Professor Hiroshi Ishii's recent TEDxTokyo talk, "The Last Farewell."

Video | Slides | Essay | Photos


Joichi Ito Chosen as Next Media Lab Director

Today the MIT Media Lab announced that Joichi "Joi" Ito will join the Lab as its new director.  more ›

Joi Ito
Joichi "Joi" Ito

Media Lab Projects Are Semi-Finalists in $100K Contest

Congratulations to five groups with Media Lab members who have made it to the finals in The MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition.

The projects include:

All Cows Eat Grass (Mihir Sarkar, Robin Bose, Sean Leow), an online platform for real-time private music lessons. The system connects music instructors and students using a low-latency audio and video link, provides motivational support to practice between lessons, and lowers the barrier to learn music.  more ›


Media Lab Research at White House Conference on Bullying Prevention

On Thursday, March 10, 2011 Henry Lieberman, head of the Media Lab's Software Agents research group, along with Karthik Dinakar and Birago Jones, first-year master's students working with Lieberman, joined President and Mrs. Obama, Secretary of Health & Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at The White House for a Conference on Bullying Prevention.  more ›

The White House, Washington DC

Death and the Powers: US Premiere March 18

Death and the Powers is a new opera by composer Tod Machover and developed at the MIT Media Lab, in collaboration with the American Repertory Theater and Chicago Opera Theater. It is a one-act, full evening work that tells the story of Simon Powers, a successful and powerful businessman and inventor, who wants to go beyond the bounds of humanity. Reaching the end of his life, Powers faces the question of his legacy: “When I die, what remains? What will I leave behind? What can I control?  more ›

Death and the Powers: Evvy and the Chandelier
Death and the Powers: Evvy and the Chandelier

Media Lab Work in MIT 150 Exhibition

The 25-year history of the Media Lab's cutting-edge research is represented by nine projects in the MIT Museum's exhibition celebrating the Institute's 150th anniversary.

Conductor's Jacket

The Glass Infrastructure

Building an open, social information window

This project builds an open, social information window into the Media Lab using 30 touch-sensitive screens strategically placed throughout the Media Lab complex. The experience of using these screens is optimized for guests and visitors who collaboratively explore and uncover the people, ideas, and connections behind the research of the Lab. The system also makes suggestions about who to meet, where they may be, and what projects and people—represented as "charms"—one ought to collect, trade, and share.  more ›

The Glass Infrastructure
Image Credit: 
Andy Ryan
Interactive touchscreens placed throughout the Media Lab complex create a richer experience for visitors.


Combining inexpensive optical elements and interactive software components to create a new, portable, and low-cost optometry system.

MIT Media Lab researchers have created a quick, simple, and inexpensive way to use mobile phones to measure refractive errors of the eye, including nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, and age-related vision loss. Until now, these measurements have only been possible using specialized equipment operated by a trained professional.  more ›

Image Credit: 
Andy Ryan
NETRA is an inexpensive and easy-to-attach add-on for self-testing eyesight quickly, easily, and accurately with a mobile phone.

Merry Miser

A financial watchdog that watches out for you

Merry Miser is a mobile application that helps its users make better decisions about spending. The application uses the context provided by a user's location and financial history to provide personalized interventions when the user is near an opportunity to spend. The interventions, which are motivated by prior research in positive psychology, persuasive technology, and shopping psychology, consist of informational displays about context-relevant spending history, subjective assessments of past purchases, personal budgets, and savings goals.

Merry Miser
Merry Miser provides interventions when a user is near an opportunity to spend. Locations and messages are personalized using information fr

Bokode: The Better Barcode

Tiny labels packed with information

The ubiquitous barcodes found on product packaging provide information to the scanner at the checkout counter, but that's about all they do. Now, researchers at the Media Lab have come up with a new kind of very tiny barcode that could provide a variety of useful information to shoppers as they scan the shelves—and could even lead to new devices for classroom presentations, business meetings, videogames or motion-capture systems.  more ›

Comparison of Bokode to regular barcodes
Bokode (shown in the center) is a new, optical, data-storage tag that can store—in only 3mm of space—a million times more data than a bar co
MIT News Office

Pattie Maes & Pranav Mistry: Unveiling the "Sixth Sense," Game-Changing Wearable Tech

SixthSense (also known as WUW: Wear Ur World) is a wearable, gestural interface that augments our physical world with digital information, and lets us use natural hand gestures to interact with that information. SixthSense uses a camera and a tiny projector in a pendant-like device to see what we see, and visually augment the surfaces or objects with which we interact. SixthSense projects information onto any surface—such as walls and other objects around us—and allows us to interact with the information through natural hand gestures, arm movements, or with the object itself.
Image Credit: 
Sam Ogden
SixthSense frees information from its confines and integrates it with the physical world. With SixthSense, MIT Media Lab researcher Pranav M

SixthSense: A Wearable, Gestural Interface to Augment Our World

Turning any surface into a touch-screen display
SixthSense is a wearable, gestural interface that augments our physical world with digital information, and lets us use natural hand gestures to interact with that information. SixthSense brings intangible, digital information into the tangible world, and allows us to interact with this information via natural hand gestures. SixthSense frees information from its confines, seamlessly integrating it with reality, thus making the entire world your computer.
SixthSense and some of its applications (clockwise): taking photographs, watching news video, checking the time, drawing, using a map, and r

Meet TOFU: A Squash and Stretch Robot

Soybeans not required
TOFU is a project to explore new ways of robotic social expression by leveraging techniques that have been used in 2d animation for decades. Disney Animation Studios pioneered animation tools such as "squash and stretch" and "secondary motion" in the 50's. Such techniques have since been used widely by animators, but are not commonly used to design robots. TOFU, who is named after the squashing and stretching food product, can also squash and stretch. Clever use of compliant materials and elastic coupling, provide an actuation method that is vibrant yet robust.

Chameleon Guitar

Can traditional values be embedded into a digital object?
In this research we implement a special guitar that combines physical acoustic properties with virtual capabilities. A wooden resonator - a unique, replaceable piece of wood that gives the guitar a unique acoustic sound, will embody the acoustical values. The acoustic signal created by this wooden heart will be digitally processed in a virtual sound box in order to create flexible sound design.
Amit Zoran and the chameleon guitar
Image Credit: 
Webb Chappell
Graduate student Amit Zoran and the "Chameleon Guitar."
MIT News

'Chameleon Guitar' Blends Old-World and High-Tech

The Chameleon Guitar—so named for its ability to mimic different instruments—is an electric guitar whose body has a separate central section that is removable. This inserted section, the soundboard, can be switched with one made of a different kind of wood, or with a different structural support system, or with one made of a different material altogether. Then, the sound generated by the electronic pickups on that board can be manipulated by a computer to produce the effect of a different size or shape of the resonating chamber.
Amit Zoran and the chameleon guitar
Image Credit: 
Webb Chappell
Graduate student Amit Zoran and the "Chameleon Guitar."
MIT News Office

Sandy Pentland Discusses His New Book at Google

Alex (Sandy) Pentland gives an overview of the work discussed in his new book, Honest Signals


Meet (and Watch) TOFU

Yes, it's cute as cute can be, but TOFU is more than just a bundle of fuzziness: it is an example of a new generation of robots that can display cartoon-like physical behaviors.


Meet TOFU, A Squash and Stretch Robot

TOFU is a project to explore new ways of robotic social expression by leveraging techniques that have been used in 2-D animation for decades. Disney Animation Studios pioneered animation tools such as "squash and stretch" and "secondary motion" in the 50s. Such techniques have since been used widely by animators, but are not commonly used to design robots. TOFU, who is named after the squashing and stretching food product, can also squash and stretch. Clever use of compliant materials and elastic coupling, provide an actuation method that is vibrant yet robust.


Sharing everyday data
The rise in popularity of the Weblog, and the development of its many variants such as photoblogs, vlogs, moblogs, and tumblelogs, demonstrate that people are increasingly willing to share what they are doing, seeing, and thinking. Micro-blogging has opened this space up even further to those who would not at all consider themselves authors; services like twitter and the status updates common to social networking sites open up a form of publication that is well suited to this wide and fundamentally amateur audience.
mycrocosm data


Intelligent sticky notes
‘Quickies’ brings one of the most useful inventions of the twentieth century—the ubiquitous sticky note—into the digital age. Sticky (aka Post-it) notes help us manage our to-do lists and capture short reminders and information needed in the near future, but keeping track of them can be a task in and of itself. Quickies enrich Post-it notes, making them trackable and manageable; we give these stickies intelligence and the ability to remind us at the relevant time about the task we ought to perform.

GIRLS Involved in Real-Life Sharing

Reflecting on emotions by constructing pictorial narratives
Girls Involved in Real-Life Sharing (G.I.R.L.S.) allows users to reflect actively upon the emotions related to their situations through the construction of pictorial narratives. The system employs common-sense reasoning to infer affective content from the users' stories and support emotional reflection. Users of this new system are able to gain new knowledge and understanding about themselves and others through the exploration of authentic and personal experiences. Currently, the project is being turned into an online system for use by school counselors.
G.I.R.L.S. Involved in Real-Life Sharing

Recent Lab Headlines

Updates on Media Lab news mentions
Here's a little collection of some recent Media Lab mentions in the news:

Kudos for LabCAST

Webby award for Lab podcasts
WEBBY awardCongratulations to Paula Aguilera, Jonathan Williams, and Henry Holtzman—the LabCAST team—on their Webby award for Technology in the Online Film & Video category. LabCAST was also nominated for best Documentary Series in Online Film & Video, and is a Webby Honoree for Websites in the Podcast category.