Top 10 most futuristic tech projects at MIT
Researchers at MIT are no strangers to the press, grabbing our attention regularly with new projects. Some in this list are potentially world-changing or life-saving breakthroughs, while others are just fun to look at. Either way, they all appear to be small previews of what life may be like within the next decade or two.
By Colin Neagle, Network World
No, it’s not a Smart Car. It’s the CityCar, designed and developed by the MIT Media Lab’s Smart Cities group, and it goes one step further than just being a smaller-than-average automobile – it folds up like a baby’s carriage to take up one-third of a parking space. It weighs less than 1,000 pounds, features electric motors located in each wheel, and uses the equivalent energy to 150 to 200 miles per gallon of gasoline. These miniature automobiles may start folding up on Europe’s city streets relatively soon, as a commercial version with the brand name Hiriko (the Basque word for ìurbanî) is reportedly already in production.
MIT’s MindRider project is essentially a modified bicycle helmet, MindRider acts as a mood ring that shows the bicyclists’ level of awareness. After reading the bicyclists’ electroencephalographic (EEG) activity through the scalp, the device displays correlating colors in the attached LED lights. As even those unfamiliar with the helmet would understand, green represents a mentally aware cyclist, red lights indicate drowsiness, anxiety and other potentially detrimental mind states, while flashing lights signal a case of two-wheeled road rage. It seems useful for informing drivers which bicyclists they should be especially careful around.
FEEL: Frequent EDA Event Logger
Going one step beyond the MindRider, FEEL is a wristband that can identify the exact reason you might be too distraught to ride a bike. FEEL uses a sensor to measure electrodermal (EDA) activity for signs of stress, anxiety and arousal while the user is reading or sending an email, taking a phone call or holding a meeting. The wristband then displays by color (once again, red is scary and green is good) which messages, meetings, reminders or phone calls caused the most stress. If nothing else, it could be a great way to identify which co-workers to avoid on busy days.
Seeing Around Corners
One of the most common complaints about third-person video games is the unfair advantage of being able to see and bypass objects or enemies that are hiding around corners. Well, thanks to the MIT Media Lab’s Ramesh Raskar and Andreas Velten, that can now be done in real life, too. By shooting a laser at the front-facing wall, the researchers were able to gather and reproduce the shape of the object hiding around the corner based on the time it took for photons to bounce back to the lens of their specially designed camera. Somewhere, Tony Stark is jealous he didn’t think of this first.
The Queen’s New Clothes
It’s not until it’s seen in the right light that this dress shows its true colors. Developed by researchers Li Bian, Matt Hirsch, Lining Yao, Henry Holtzman and Hiroshi Ishii, the costume that came as a result of the Queen’s New Clothes project changes color based on the light projected against it. Possibly the least surprising aspect is that it was inspired by a Lady Gaga outfit.
When it was first described as “the ability to locate an audio conference in space,” it seemed a little bit underwhelming. But after seeing this video of its use on the road, it couldn’t be ready for mass production soon enough. The driver speaks into a docked iPad no differently than she would while on speaker phone with a friend. The difference is that every driver in her radius hears her, and can respond to let her know that he’s currently vacating a parking spot, and doesn’t mind holding it until she gets there. Just imagine the possibilities for expressing road rage.
Ghosts of the Past
Despite having a name fit for a horror flick, Ghosts of the Past is likely to be used more often for reliving the good old days. Rather than trying to verbally describe a situation, event, or even a person whose name you might not recall, Ghosts of the Past projects video from a previous event against a backdrop image of the very setting in which it occurred. Through this website, those backdrops (called “canopies”) and video clips (or “panoramas”) can be paired for viewing on an iPad. QR codes add another layer, allowing the user to print and paste a copy in that very same location, so others can experience your birthday party even if they weren’t invited.
For those who don’t have someone there to tell them not to spend $1,000 on sunglasses when they’re on a $500 budget, MIT’s Information Ecology team developed the Proverbial Wallet. Several different models tell the user in different ways when they’re spending too much money. Through a Bluetooth connection to the user’s cellphone, the wallet keeps track of bank account activity and responds by either buzzing, expanding or retracting, or even making it more easy or difficult to open based on the amount left in the account.
Augmented Product Counter
While MIT Media Lab researcher Natan Linder says the Augmented Product Counter is perfect for Best Buy retail outlets, the store’s employees aren’t likely to agree. The Augmented Product Counter goes deeper than just displaying price and product information, and displays an interactive interface to compare products, read reviews, and even video chat with a remote expert.
When a natural disaster or other major regional emergency occurs, the amount of time it takes to gather help can mean the difference of thousands of lives. MIT Media Lab’s Fluid Interfaces Group has developed Konbit, a service that helps those with the ability to help inform first responders of their applicable skills that might be in need, and vice versa. The application was designed with compatibility for multiple languages as well as for the illiterate, helping streamline the recovery process.