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Doug Ricket '01, MEng '02 co-founded PayJoy, a startup that aims to “provide a fair and responsible entry point for individuals in emerging markets to enter the modern financial system, build credit, achieve economic freedom, and access digital connectivity,” reports Mary Ann Azevedo for TechCrunch. “PayJoy is applying a buy now, pay-as-you-go model to the estimated 3 billion adults globally who don’t have credit by allowing them to purchase smartphones and pay weekly for a 3- to 12-month period. The phones themselves are used as collateral for the loan,” explains Azevedo.

New Scientist

Postdoc Xuhai Xu and his colleagues have developed an AI program that can distribute pop-up reminders to help limit smartphone screen time, reports Jeremy Hsu for New Scientist. Xu explains that “a random notification to stop doomscrolling won’t always tear someone away from their phone. But machine learning can personalize that intervention so it arrives at the moment when it is most likely to work,” writes Hsu.


Researchers at MIT have discovered how a new computational imaging algorithm can capture user interactions through ambient light sensors commonly found in smartphones, reports Davey Winder for Forbes. “By combining the smartphone display screen, an active component, with the ambient light sense, which is passive, the researchers realized that capturing images in front of that screen was possible without using the device camera,” explains Winder.


Research from MIT and elsewhere have developed a mobile app that uses computer-vision techniques and AI to detect post-surgery signs of infection as part of an effort to help community workers in Kirehe, a district in Rwanda’s Eastern province, reports Shefali Malhotra for Science. “The researchers are now improving the app so it can be used across more diverse populations such as in Ghana and parts of South America,” writes Malhotra.


Prof. Hari Balakrishnan speaks with Forbes contributor Stuart Anderson about his decision to leave India to pursue a PhD in computer science in the U.S., his love for teaching students as a professor at MIT and his work co-founding Cambridge Mobile Telematics, a software company that utilizes technology to make roads safer. “Immigration and immigrants make the United States stronger,” said Balakrishnan. “Immigration is the biggest strength that we have. We need to be able to attract and retain talent, no matter where people come from.”


CNN reporter Christine Walker spotlights the MIT App Inventor 2020 virtual hackathon, which allowed aspiring coders from all over the world to create apps aimed at improving the global good. “There was a sense of helplessness that was settling down. And a big theme in our workplace is empowerment," says Selim Tezel, a curriculum developer for App Inventor. "We wanted to give them a context in which they could be creative and sort of get rid of that feeling of helplessness."


Gizmodo reporter Andrew Liszewski writes that MIT researchers have created an algorithm that can automatically fix warped faces in wide-angle shots without impacting the rest of the photo. Liszewski writes that the tool could “be integrated into a camera app and applied to wide angle photos on the fly as the algorithm is fast enough on modern smartphones to provide almost immediate results.”


Prof. Ethan Zuckerman, director of the MIT Center for Civic Media, speaks with Vox about the potential cognitive impact of using new digital technologies. “The interesting question is what are the real problems and how do we address them and make them better?” says Zuckerman. “How would you mitigate those harmful effects? What are the positive effects we want out of it?”


TechCrunch reporter Ingrid Lunden highlights RapidSOS, an MIT startup that “helps increase the funnel of information that is transmitted to emergency services alongside a call for help.”

Boston Globe

A report released by MIT startup Cambridge Mobile Telematics (CMT) shows that one in four drivers were using a smartphone just before an accident occurred, reports The Boston Globe’s Matt Rocheleau. Prof. Samuel Madden, founder and chief scientist at CMT, explains that the study shows “people are using their phones a lot, and that’s playing a role in the accidents.” 

BBC News

BBC reporter Lorelei Mihala highlights DriveWell, an app developed by Profs. Hari Balakrishnan and Sam Madden, aimed at addressing the problem of distracted driving. “We wanted to show that smartphones could be used to make drivers better,” says Balakrishnan.


MIT researchers have created a smartphone that can build itself, reports Thomas Tamblyn for The Huffington Post. The research suggests that “in the future a phone could be manufactured so that when dropped it will automatically break into deliberately separate pieces, which can then be easily re-attached afterwards,” Tamblyn explains. 


MIT researchers have developed a self-assembling phone, reports Heather Kelly for CNN. “A phone that assembles itself could help manufacturers cut down on costs, or open the door for more experimental phone designs,” writes Kelly. 

Boston Magazine

MIT alumnus Jason Strauss’ startup creates and mails postcards based off your smartphone photos, writes Madeline Bilis for Boston Magazine. “Users text a photo to a phone number, include an address and a message, provide payment information for a $2 processing fee, and voilà, a postcard is printed and shipped,” explains Bilis.


Prof. Tavneet Suri writes for The Huffington Post that text messages can improve civic engagement in developing countries, if the electoral system is perceived as fair. “While it’s clear that get-out-the-vote text messages have enormous potential to increase civic engagement and participation, it’s also clear that these messages carry an implicit promise of transparency and openness,” writes Suri.