MIT media lab presents seminar on future media

Tanya Lagatella

Imagine a computer that could think like a human. Imagine a machine that could be aware of your emotions. Imagine a computer that could interact with you accordingly.

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are imagining a computer with common sense, with all of these capabilities that are natural to a human being.

On Wednesday, September 22, 2004, Quinnipiac University School of Communications hosted a seminar presented by researchers from the MIT Media Lab “Tomorrow’s Media: Fast, Simple and Available to All?”.

Walter Bender, executive director of the MIT Media Lab, and his colleagues Jack Driscoll, editor-in-residence, and Barbara Barry, developer of a smart video camera, discussed their leading-edge research into how people will communicate in the future.

Bender is a senior research scientist, and director of the electronic publishing group, and a member of the laboratory’s information organized consortium. His is also a founder of the Media Laboratories. Bender also directs Gray Matters, which is a special interest group that focuses on technology’s impact on the aging population.

Driscoll was with the Boston Globe for nearly 40 years, including seven as editor. His main areas of concentration have been in electronic publishing and community computing.

Barry is a PH.D. candidate at the MIT Media lab, with her research focusing on computational storytelling systems and documentary filmmaking.

Students, faculty and members of the public packed into the Mancheski Executive seminar room, to view MIT’s latest research and development project.

Barbara Barry presented a segment entitled, “Mindful Documentary.” She is credited with the development of a “smart” video camera. Barry combined her passion for artificial intelligence with cinema to create a computer capable of thinking.

“Yes… a camera with a mind, one that understands something about the world we live and the way we create stories,” said Barry.

Barry, a P.H. D. candidate, has a passion for documenting life. She told students to, “Document as you live,” and that’s just how she lives.

She has a four step system of observing, recording, organizing, and presenting.

Barry’s “smart” camera is in fact a hybrid laptop camera that goes far beyond recording a video clip.

The “smart” camera is an interactive partner that can suggest what footage to shoot.

Barry who dreams of being a media maker and collector is in the process collecting common sense information for her interactive partner.

The “smart” camera serves four purposes, to capture and collect context, identify unusual elements, generate predictions based on past experiences, identify a stories thread.

Barry gave the example of shooting a documentary at the beach. The software helps Barry to develop a probabilistic model of all the things she would see at the beach. It is as if she has an interactive partner telling her what to film.

The MIT media lab created a website dedicated to humanizing technology,

The link entitled “What is open mind commonsense,” brings the user to a page that reads, “Our goal is to teach computers all those things an average person knows but takes for granted because they are so obvious. This is known as the problem of giving computers commonsense.”(

Barry continues to collect commonsense information from the World Wide Web in order to bridge the gap between humans and computers.

“Media will one day have a mind of its own,” Barry said.