The Perspectives series, in which Media Lab researchers speak about their current work and about changes and new developments in their respective fields, resumes on Friday, Nov. 1 with a talk by Seymour Papert, LEGO Professor of Learning Research, entitled "Why Can't You Learn Chinese in a Day?" All talks are from 5-6pm in Bartos Theater (Building E15).
Professor Papert will offer speculations on whether computers have helped us understand or extend the limits of learning, and answer criticism by skeptics including Institute Professor Noam Chomsky of linguistics. Other talks are as follows:
November 19--Marvin Minsky, Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, "Computers, Emotions, and Common Sense." Many people still believe that the human mind has qualities that no machine can match, such as motivation, feelings and "consciousness." Professor Minsky argues that these differences come not from the nature of our machines, but rather from constraints we imposed on them in our earliest methods of programming. Now that computers have grown in power, he suggests it is time to begin to remove those restrictions and make computers more "human."
February 25--Professor Hiroshi Ishii, "Tangible Bits: Towards Seamless Interfaces Between People, Bits and Atoms." Professor Ishii will explore attempts to bridge the gap between our physical environment and cyberspace by developing ways to make digital information accessible through physical surfaces, everyday objects, and ambient media such as light, sound, and air. The goal of this work is to move away from the current model of human-computer interaction that uses a monitor display, keyboard and mouse, and create a new set of "tangible interfaces."
March 18--Professor Joseph Jacobson, "Electronic Books and Electronic Paper." This talk will focus on the current status, future directions and implications of work on new display technologies that underlie the development of the "one-book" library. With such technology, a user could press a button and read "Jane Eyre" on real paper-then close the book, press the button again and read today's newspaper on those same pages.
April 29--Professor Bruce Blumberg, "Building Things with Behavior and Character." By combining ideas from the study of animal behavior and classical animation, we can learn how to build interactive characters that not only display the rich level of behavior found in animals, but also convey what they are "feeling" and what they are likely to do next. Applications for this work include interactive characters and companions used for immersive storytelling environments and as the basis for "smart" avatars for Web-based environments.
The talks are free; members of the MIT community and the public are invited to attend on a first-come, first-served basis.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 30, 1996.