Notes On Blindness, Arnaud Colinart

Hacking VR, 7 ways

Ever since Ivan Sutherland, PhD ’63, developed Ultimate Display in 1965—a forerunner to augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) that uses tactile stimuli to mimic the physical world—MIT researchers have been engineering new forms of immersive media. Today, the … Continued

Pink Anemonemefish by Keith Ellenbogen

Tactical Beauty

How underwater photography serves conservation efforts Coping with climate change is such a profoundly new part of the human experience that a new word, solastagia, has been coined to describe the emotional distress caused by violations against the planet. Underwater … Continued

A kite made of many small white triangles on a green field.
A collapsible tetrahedral kite inspired by one designed by Alexander Graham Bell. Photo: Nadya Peek, Matthew Arbesfeld and James Coleman.

Reinventing Invention

An expandable table. A collapsible CNC router. Motorized wheels whose diameter can enlarge and contract depending on the terrain. These are a few of the examples of “transformable design” now on display from the course, “Mechanical Invention Through Computation” led by visiting designer, engineer and inventor Chuck Hoberman. The seminar, co-taught with MIT professors Erik Demaine and Daniela Rus from the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), was driven by a simple question: How can you create new transformable objects?

Dancers wave long pieces of fabric in the air on a stone staircase.
Christopher Janney, "Soundstair On Tour, Rehearsal." 1979. Photograph: Anne Bray.

Music/Tech: Christopher Janney

In 1976, Christopher Janney was one of only four graduate students to enroll in MIT’s new masters program in Environmental Art, where he first began his formal experiments combining architecture and jazz under Otto Piene, Director of MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies, founded in 1967. His thesis, “SOUNDSTAIR: The Nature of Environmental/Participatory Art,” was performed on many iconic stairways — from the Spanish Steps in Rome to MIT’s own Building 7 — in which the dancer’s footsteps would trigger sounds, altered in real-time by Janney. In essence, the entire building became a musical instrument.

A student and a visiting artist talk in a music class.
Eric Singer and student Otto Briner in the "Music and Technology" class, Spring 2013.

Music/Tech: Eric Singer

The Sonic Banana, both playful and ingenious, is emblematic of Singer’s work. Singer is the founder of LEMUR, the “League of League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots,” a collective of artists and technologists who create robotic musical instruments. A self-described “engineer of very strange things,” Singers works as a musician, artist, and computer scientist to create interactive installations from unusual materials. Created with a DIY ethos, his instruments are playful, interactive, and intuitive. His philosophy: “How do I take things that aren’t musical instruments and turn them into musical instruments?”

A man sits behind a laptop and a music stand.
David Sheppard

Music/Tech: David Sheppard

“The room is the most important instrument I play,” Sheppard said. In 2011, he transformed the entire concrete hulk of a former Nazi submarine station into a musical piece, drawing attention to the acoustic properties of the airport-sized docking point while at the same time creating an environment for other musicians to inhabit. Alone and with others, he calibrates the structural relationship between acoustics and physical space to create the conditions of new possibility.