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Notes from the Lab


Producing oil and gas, mining, building mass-transit systems and creating underground utility services all rely on many drilling and excavation technologies that have not changed dramatically in years. Major advances in those technologies may be feasible, but only if the entire drilling and excavation system can be addressed-a fundamental approach that has not been possible. Today's drilling and excavation systems are so complex that no single manufacturer can undertake system-wide innovation.

Getting the traditionally fragmented industries and research groups to pool their resources and work cooperatively on fundamental innovation is the aim of the National Advanced Drilling and Excavation Technologies (NADET) Institute formed in 1995 by MIT Energy Laboratory leaders and their industrial, academic and government collaborators. The NADET Institute hopes to create a new generation of advanced environmentally sound drilling and excavation technologies by the year 2010.

An initial focus will be "smart" drilling systems, or systems that are guided by downhole devices that can sense not only position but also other conditions such as the presence of minerals, hydrocarbons or even a pollutant. The NADET Institute is directed by Professor Carl Peterson of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Seed funds to establish the program have come from the Geothermal Division of the US Department of Energy.

Nancy W. Stauffer, Energy Laboratory


Delivering music on the Internet is a slow process; it takes more than 22 minutes on a 14.4-Kbps modem to download just five minutes of compressed audio, and existing technologies for rapid delivery result in sound-quality reductions that are unacceptable for music.

However, NetSound, from the Media Laboratory's Machine Listening group, can deliver an entire Beethoven symphony in about 10 seconds and render it in real time at CD quality. Much like the Adobe PostScript standard for printed data, NetSound files, requiring only 10 bps, comprise a set of precise algorithmic descriptions of instrument sounds for a particular piece of music, and a list of notes, timings and expression information for each instrument. Researchers can specify exactly what end-users will hear, independent of the receiving computers' sound cards, which differ immensely in sound quality. The combined representation of musical score and algorithmic sound description requires only one ten-thousandth of the data of an equivalent audio CD.

NetSound (built upon Professor Barry Vercoe's CSound software-synthesis language) still has room for improvement, since the music is synthetic; the expressive content is added by a programmer and not a performer. Students Eric Scheirer and Keith Martin are working on techniques to retain the expressive content of the original performance. The project is led by graduate student Michael Casey and funded by the Media Lab's Television of Tomorrow Consortium. (Source: Frames)


For several semesters, literature professor Peter Donaldson has been teaching Shakespeare with help from an electronic text-video program he developed, dubbed the Shakespeare Interactive Archive. Now Professor Donaldson and a colleague from Stanford plan to use the archive, coupled with the World Wide Web and some videoconferencing, to allow students from both universities to share their work and thoughts on the Bard of Avon.

The interactive archive, which links laser disks and texts, allows students to compose multimedia essays and analyze Shakespeare film acting in depth. For example, they can move quickly from a line in printed text to its performance in a film and look at different performances of the same lines.

This semester MIT and Stanford students will prepare analytic and interpretive multimedia essays on specific scenes and characters in films based on Shakespeare's work. Those discussed will include the Olivier and Zeffirelli Hamlets, the Branagh and Olivier Henry Vs, and the Polanski and Welles Macbeths. In creating their essays, for the first time the students will also have access to an extensive digital art and photofacsimile collection on Shakespeare.

Students will use these materials to construct multimedia notebooks that will then be shared, discussed, and-if all goes well-made the basis for scene performances shared over the Internet.

The Shakespeare Interactive Archive project, which was developed at MIT's Laboratory for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 13, 1996.

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