M.I.T. Futurists Focus on Next-Gen Multimedia

The MIT Media Lab has announced its latest endeavor -- the creation of a Center for Future Storytelling. The center will use new technologies to make stories more interactive, improvisational and social, according to an official statement.

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Graphic: Diego Aguirre
The center is being funded by a seven-year, US$25 million commitment from Plymouth Rock Studios, a major motion picture and television studio scheduled to open in 2010 south of Boston.

Three researchers from MIT's Media Lab will co-direct the center. They are V. Michael Bove Jr., who studies object-based media and interative television, Cynthia Breazeal, who focuses on robotics, and Ramesh Rasker, who researches imaging, display and performance-capture technologies.

The goal is to create "a sort of living story that can continue to evolve and shape depending on who is listening to it and how they can derive meaning from it," Breazeal said in a taped interview.

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The center already has more than a dozen research projects in the works. They include:

Everything Tells A Story: A project that will enable everyday objects to keep running "diaries," of what happened to them. The information could be used for "personal story creation" by individuals.

Tofu: A robot that uses cartoon-animation style movement to work with kids. The researchers describe it as "LEGO Mindstorms meets Muppets." Future versions of Tofu will allow children to design, program and remotely operate their own puppets to tell stories.

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Nexi: A project to create a social robot, or a "synthetic performer." The project combines mobility, dexterity, and most remarkably, sociality. The robot's expressive face is capable of multiple human facial expressions. A video of Nexi can be viewed below.

Programmable Movies: A research project to turn movies into a customized experience based on certain parameters like emotions, place or time. The idea is to let users piece together different images using metadata encoded in the images.

MIT's Media Lab was started more than 20 years ago to develop innovative technologies for human expression and interactivity. To read about other projects at the Center for Storytelling, click here.

This story, "M.I.T. Futurists Focus on Next-Gen Multimedia" was originally published by thestandard.com.

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