Open main menu

The MIT Media Lab is an antidisciplinary[3] research laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, growing out of MIT's Architecture Machine Group in the School of Architecture. Its research does not restrict to fixed academic disciplines, but draws from technology, media, science, art and design.[4] As of 2014, Media Lab's research groups include neurobiology,[5] biologically inspired fabrication,[6] socially engaging robots,[7] emotive computing,[8] bionics,[9] and hyperinstruments.[10]

MIT Media Lab
Mit medialab logo.png
Established1985; 33 years ago (1985)[1]
Budget$50 million[2]
Field of research
Technology, multimedia, sciences, art, design
DirectorJoi Ito
LocationCambridge, Massachusetts, United States

The Media Lab was founded in 1985 by Nicholas Negroponte and former MIT President Jerome Wiesner, and is housed in the Wiesner Building (designed by I. M. Pei), also known as Building E15. The Lab has been written about in the popular press since 1988, when Stewart Brand published The Media Lab: Inventing the Future at M.I.T., and its work was a regular feature of technology journals in the 1990s. In 2009, it expanded into a second building.[11]



The founding director of the lab was Nicholas Negroponte, who directed it until 2000. Later directors were Walter Bender (2000–2006), Frank Moss (2006–2011), and Joi Ito (2011-present).[12]

As of 2014, the Media Lab had roughly 70 administrative and support staff members. Associate Directors of the Lab were Hiroshi Ishii and Andrew Lippman. Pattie Maes and Mitchel Resnick were co-heads of the Program in Media Arts and Sciences, and the Lab's Chief Knowledge Officer was Henry Holtzman.

The Media Lab has at times had regional branches in other parts of the world, such as Media Lab Europe and Media Lab Asia, each with their own staff and governing bodies.[13][14]

Funding modelEdit

The Lab's primary funding comes from corporate sponsorship. Rather than accepting funding on a per-project or per-group basis, the Lab asks sponsors to fund general themes; sponsors can then connect with Media Lab research. Specific projects and researchers are also funded more traditionally through government institutions including the NIH, NSF, and DARPA. Also, consortia with other schools or other departments at MIT are often able to have money that does not enter into the common pool.

Intellectual propertyEdit

Companies sponsoring the Lab can share in the Lab's intellectual property without paying license fees or royalties. Non-sponsors cannot make use of Media Lab developments for two years after technical disclosure is made to MIT and Media Lab sponsors. The Media Lab generates approximately 20 new patents every year.[citation needed]

Research at the LabEdit

Some recurring themes of work at the Media Lab include human adaptability,[15] human computer interaction, education and communication, artistic creation and visualization, and designing technology for the developing world. Other research focus includes machines with common sense, sociable robots, prosthetics, sensor networks, musical devices, city design, and public health. Research programs all include iterative development of prototypes which are tested and displayed for visitors.[16]

Each of these areas of research may incorporate others. Interaction design research includes designing intelligent objects and environments. Educational research has also included integrating more computation into learning activities - including software for learning, programmable toys, and artistic or musical instruments. Examples include Lego Mindstorms, the PicoCricket, and One Laptop per Child.[17]

Research groupsEdit

As of 2017, the MIT Media Lab has the following research groups:[18]

  • Affective Computing: "helping people better communicate, understand, and respond to affective information."
  • Biomechatronics: "enhancing human physical capability."
  • Camera Culture: "capturing and sharing visual information."
  • City Science: "designing dynamic urban environments."
  • Civic Media: "fostering civic participation and information flow"
  • Conformable Decoders
  • Design Fictions: "discussing implications of new technologies through design and storytelling."
  • Fluid Interfaces: "integrating information and services into our daily physical lives."
  • Human Dynamics: "how social networks influence our lives"
  • Lifelong Kindergarten: "creative learning experiences."
  • Collective Learning: "transforming data into knowledge."
  • Mediated Matter: "transforming the design and construction of objects and systems."
  • Molecular Machines: "engineering at the limits of complexity with molecular-scale parts."
  • Object-Based Media: "new sensing and interface technologies"
  • Opera of the Future: "musical composition, performance, and instrumentation."
  • Personal Robots: "socially engaging robots"
  • Playful Systems: "sensor networks augmenting human experience."
  • Responsive Environments: "designing large-scale social systems."
  • Scalable Cooperation: "reimagining the way society organizes, cooperates, and governs."
  • Signal Kinetics: "extend human and computer abilities through signals and networks"
  • Social Machines: "building machines that learn to use language in human-like ways, modeling children and adults"
  • Social Computing: "assisting users by learning from interaction and anticipating needs."
  • Speech + Mobility: "engineering intelligent neurotechnologies."
  • Synthetic Neurobiology: "interfaces between humans, information, and the environment."
  • Tangible Media
  • Viral Spaces: "scalable systems that enhance how we learn from and experience real spaces."

Academic programEdit

The Media Arts and Sciences program is a part of MIT's School of Architecture and Planning, and includes three levels of study: a doctoral program, a master's of science program, and a program that offers an alternative to the standard MIT freshman year as well as a set of undergraduate subjects that may form the basis for a future joint major. All graduate students are fully supported (tuition plus a stipend) from the outset, normally by appointments as research assistants at the Media Laboratory, where they work on research programs and faculty projects, including assisting with courses. These research activities typically take up about half of a student's time in the degree program.

The Media Arts and Sciences academic program have a close relationship with the Media Lab. Most Media Lab faculty are professors of Media Arts and Sciences. Students who earn a degree in Media Arts and Sciences have been predominantly in residence at the Media Lab, taking classes and doing research. Some students from other programs at MIT, such as Mechanical Engineering, or Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, do their research at the Media Lab, working with a Media Lab/Media Arts and Sciences faculty advisor, but earn their degrees (such as MEng or an MS in EECS) from other departments.


The new Media Lab expansion (Building E14). Original Wiesner Building (E15) is visible at left.

In addition to the Media Lab, the combined original Wiesner building (E15) and new (E14) buildings also host the List Visual Arts Center, the School of Architecture and Planning's Program in Art, Culture and Technology (ACT), and MIT's Program in Comparative Media Studies.

In 2009, the Media Lab expanded into a new building designed by Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki.[19] The local architect of record was Leers Weinzapfel Associates, of Boston. The Maki building has predominantly glass walls, with long lines of sight through the building, making ongoing research visible and encouraging connections and collaboration.[20]

Faculty and academic research staffEdit

Media Arts and Sciences faculty and academic research staff are principal investigators/heads of the Media Lab's various research groups. They also advise Media Arts and Sciences graduate students and mentor MIT undergraduates. "Most departments accept grad students based on their prospects for academic success; the Media Lab attempts to select ones that will best be able to help with some of the ongoing projects."[21]

As of 2014, there are more than 25 faculty and academic research staff members, including a dozen named professorships. A full list of Media Lab faculty and academic research staff, with bios and other information, is available via the Media Lab Website.[22]

Selected publicationsEdit


Outputs and spin-offsEdit

Some Media Lab-developed technologies made it into products or public software packages, such as the Lego Mindstorms, LEGO WeDo and the pointing stick in IBM laptop keyboards[citation needed], the Benton hologram used in most credit cards, the Fisher-Price's Symphony Painter,[23] the Nortel Wireless Mesh Network,[24] the NTT Comware Sensetable,[25] the Taito's Karaoke-on-Demand Machine.[26] A 1994 device called the Sensor Chair used to control a musical orchestra was adapted by several car manufacturers into capacitive sensors to prevent dangerous airbag deployments.[27][28]

The MPEG-4 SA project developed at the Media Lab made structured audio a practical reality[29] and the Aspen Movie Map was the precursor to the ideas in Google Street View.

In 2001, two research centers were spun off: Media Lab Asia and Media Lab Europe. Media Lab Asia, based in India, was a result of cooperation with the Government of India but eventually broke off in 2003 after a disagreement. Media Lab Europe, based in Dublin, Ireland, was founded with a similar concept in association with Irish universities and government, and closed in January 2005.

Created collaboratively by the Computer Museum and the Media Lab, the Computer Clubhouse, a worldwide network of after-school learning centers, focuses on youth from underserved communities who would not otherwise have access to technological tools and activities.[30]

Launched in 2003, Scratch is a block-based programming language and community developed for children 8-16, and used by people of all ages to learn programming.[31] Millions of people have created Scratch projects in a wide variety of settings, including homes, schools, museums, libraries, and community centers.

In January 2005, the Lab's chairman emeritus Nicholas Negroponte announced at the World Economic Forum a new research initiative to develop a $100 laptop computer. A non-profit organization, One Laptop per Child, was created to oversee the actual deployment, MIT did not manufacture or distribute the device.

The Synthetic Neurobiology group created reagents and devices for the analysis of brain circuits are in use by hundreds of biology labs around the world.

In 2011, Ramesh Raskar's group published their femto-photography technique, that is able to image the movement of individual light pulses.[32]


Media Lab industry spin-offs include:[33]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Inventing the future" - Corporate brochure
  2. ^ Overview of the MIT
  3. ^ Joi Ito. "Antidisciplinary". Retrieved 2018-08-14.
  4. ^ MIT Media Lab. "Fact Sheet". Retrieved 2012-09-12.
  5. ^ MIT Media Lab. "Synthetic Neurobiology". Retrieved 2014-06-26.
  6. ^ MIT Media Lab. "Mediated Matter". Retrieved 2014-06-26.
  7. ^ MIT Media Lab. "Personal Robots". Retrieved 2014-06-26.
  8. ^ MIT Media Lab. "Affective Computing". Retrieved 2014-06-26.
  9. ^ MIT Media Lab. "Biomechatronics". Retrieved 2014-06-26.
  10. ^ MIT Media Lab. "Mediated Matter". Retrieved 2014-06-26.
  11. ^ "MIT Capital Projects: Media Lab Complex, Building E14". Retrieved 2018-01-11.
  12. ^ John Markoff (April 26, 2011). "M.I.T. Media Lab Names a New Director". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-04-25.
  13. ^ MIT Media Labs, India. "Design Innovation Workshop 2015". Retrieved 2015-01-23.
  14. ^ Aniruddha Mysore. "MIT Media Labs Design Innovation Workshop Report". Archived from the original on 2015-02-22. Retrieved 2015-01-25.
  15. ^ "MIT Media Lab: h2.0 Symposium Archive". Retrieved 2018-01-11.
  16. ^ "MIT Media Lab Featured Research".
  17. ^ "". Retrieved 2011-10-23.
  18. ^ "MIT Media Lab Research Groups".
  19. ^ Campbell, Robert (December 6, 2009). "Media Lab aims to elevate transparency". The Boston Globe.
  20. ^ "". 2006-09-26. Retrieved 2011-10-23.
  21. ^ Timmer, John. "Building The Next Big Thing: 25 Years of MIT's Media Lab". Wired News. October 24, 2010.
  22. ^ "". Retrieved 2011-10-23.
  23. ^ "". Archived from the original on 2012-08-05. Retrieved 2011-10-23.
  24. ^ "". Archived from the original on 2012-08-05. Retrieved 2011-10-23.
  25. ^ "". Archived from the original on 2012-08-04. Retrieved 2011-10-23.
  26. ^ "". Archived from the original on 2012-08-05. Retrieved 2011-10-23.
  27. ^ "Joshua R. Smith, Ph.D".
  28. ^
  29. ^ "MPEG-4 Structured Audio". Archived from the original on 2007-12-09.
  30. ^ "". Retrieved 2011-10-23.
  31. ^ Shapiro, Jordan. "Your Five Year Old Can Learn To Code With An IPad App". Forbes.
  32. ^ "". Retrieved 2013-03-30.
  33. ^ "Media Lab spinoff companies". MIT Media Lab. Retrieved 2018-01-11.
  34. ^
  35. ^ "EyeNetra Wants To Create Prescription Virtual Reality Screens". Retrieved 2015-10-19.
  36. ^ "". 2016-10-09. Retrieved 2011-10-23.
  37. ^ Bajak, Frank (2007-12-25). "MIT spinoff's little green laptop a hit in remote Peruvian village". Retrieved 2018-01-29.
  38. ^ "Spinoff Companies – MIT Media Lab". MIT Media Lab. Retrieved 2018-01-29.
  39. ^ "Xconomy: Salient Stills Sold to Audio-Tech Firm DAC". Xconomy. 2013-07-15. Retrieved 2018-01-01.
  40. ^ "Spinoff Companies – MIT Media Lab". MIT Media Lab. Retrieved 2018-01-29.
  41. ^ "The Echo Nest". Retrieved 2016-10-24.
  42. ^ "". Archived from the original on 2011-10-24. Retrieved 2011-10-23.
  43. ^ "From iCalm to Q Sensor to Physiio to Empatica".
  44. ^ "Real-time physiological signals | E4 EDA/GSR sensor".
  45. ^ "Founded in 2011, Supermechanical grew out of designer/software developer John Kestner's graduate work at the MIT Media Lab, where he explored ways to incorporate connectivity into the physical interfaces of everyday objects." [1]
  46. ^ "". Retrieved 2011-10-23.
  47. ^ "". Archived from the original on 2011-09-28. Retrieved 2011-10-23.

External linksEdit