MIT Research: Mining Reality, $100 Laptops & Executive Squirrels

Greetings and Salutations,

You’ve gotta love those guys (and gals!) from .

Somehow, ever since the days of the old DEC PDP hackers, they have managed to show up into the spotlight of the computing industry each and every year. Not without merit, mind you.

Even if you didn’t know they were from MIT, you would have heard of past achievements, like or Real-time images with commodity PC hardware.

There are literally hundreds of research projects taking place in those labs, but three that grabbed my interest recently were the , the and .

Developed as a way to educate the world’s children, the concept of the sub-100-dollar notebook is definitely interesting. A rugged, Linux-based, full-color-screen laptop, which will use innovative power (apparently including wind-up), be WiFi- and cell phone-enabled, and have USB ports galore.

Its current specifications are: 500MHz, 1GB, 1 Mega pixel.

So how are they getting it so cheap? In their own words:

  • First, by driving the display cost below $25. We are exploring five different options for this, looking at possibilities such as projected image or roll-to-roll printed display. Projection is the primary candidate at this time, and will bring the cost of an approximately 12″ diagonal display to below $20. , invented at the Media Lab, is another option.
  • Second, we will get the fat out of the systems. Today’s laptops have become obese. Two-thirds of their software is used to manage the other third, which mostly does the same functions nine different ways.
  • Third, we will market the laptops in very large numbers (millions), directly to ministries of education, which can distribute them like textbooks.

This is one to keep an eye on – especially once they go into full production swing. I’d be interested to see the effect it will create in the general market, if any.

Are you the type that is overwhelmed with phone calls and can’t afford a secretary? Then Stefan Marti from the Media Lab has just the thing for you!

The Cellular Squirrel is a Bluetooth enabled animatronic rodent that can manage your calls for you. How? By using a combination of technologies.

One of these is called the Issue Detection System. This system will be able to assess in real-time the relevance of a call to the user. If it is deemed worthy of disturbing you, the smart robotics in this little plush toy will get your attention by waving and facing you. If you trust it’s judgement, press it’s hand and it becomes a speakerphone. If you don’t, pressing it’s foot will divert the call to Voice-mail.

I think we can see these on a number of desks in the not-so-distant future.

Check out these or Stefan’s for further information.

What do you get when you log 350,000 hours of data over nine months about the location, proximity, activity and communication of volunteers through cell phones carried by them?

A data mining algorithm that is able to predict what people would do next 85% accuracy level!

MIT Researcher, Nathan Eagle, used cell phones in a recent project at MIT Media Labs to both document and predict the lives of 100 MIT faculty and staff members during the .

The project has a phenomenal potential, in quite a number of areas, and it will be interesting to see the impact on (the most likely immediate) cell phone technology and later in the data mining fields.

Check out this , the Page or Nathan’s for more information.


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