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NOTE: Media Lab Europe closed in January 2005. The pages on this web site are for historical reference only.

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Research group overview

Principal investigator: Carol Strohecker

The most valuable skill people can have is the ability to learn -- that is, to evaluate new ideas and master new techniques eagerly, flexibly, swiftly, and thoroughly, and to understand one's own ways of doing so. We invent tools and environments for learning that is creative, curiosity-based, self-motivated, and personalised. We cast everyday settings as informal learning environments that are welcoming, engaging, and productive for members of different cultures and different generations.


Andrea Taylor, Carol Strohecker, Zoltan Foley-Fisher
A handwriting sample, with all its idiosyncratic gestures, feeds a typography programme that interprets signals such as pressure and speed for modifying the displayed letterforms accordingly. Later versions of the tool will map these signals to appropriate elements of pictography and music systems, resulting in multimodal forms that are often surprising and provocative as well as richly expressive. Polymorphic Letters aims to facilitate learning about the relations between different expressive modes and exploration of new ways of seeing and communicating.

Carol Strohecker, Zoltan Foley-Fisher, Jamie Rasmussen, Matt Karau, Bronagh O'Hanlon, Rukshana Cader, Mauro Cherubini
A mobile sensing device detects chemical components of environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). The readings are displayed on a 12-hour exposure clock, allowing wearers to reflect on harmful locations and patterns in their daily routine. A coupled simulation environment enables projections of potential long-term health effects of sustained exposures to various levels of ETS, or 'passive smoking'. Each part of the interface uses easily understandable visual representations of scientific data and information.

Karen Martin and Carol Strohecker
Movements of the human body can be integral parts of learning activities and may support development of intuitions about spatial relations in mathematics such as geometry and topology. We are studying movement in different contexts and at different spatial and temporal scales - from fine-motor to gross-motor, from involving fingers and hands to whole-body movements, and from simpler to more complex, requiring shorter or longer periods of time to both learn and perform the actions. In addressing the richness of human movement so it can be incorporated into the design of interactive objects, we focus on situations in which people and objects come together, and consider how people develop and coordinate complex motions in order to enact fluid, graceful movements for aesthetic and functional results.

Brian MacCraith, Emma O'Brien (National Centre for Sensor Research, Dublin City University); Carol Strohecker (Everyday Learning group, Media Lab Europe); Donal Synnott (National Botanic Gardens, Ireland); Joe Butler (Intel Ireland)
Sensors and communications create a powerful synergy for learning about ecosystems. We are networking miniaturised wireless sensor arrays in a glasshouse to measure environmental parameters that affect plant growth (temperature, light intensity, humidity, oxygen and carbon dioxide). The general public -- in particular, primary and secondary school children -- will be able to access the resultant data via the web for access and analysis.

Deirdre Butler (St. Patrick's College, Dublin City University); Seymour Papert, Glorianna Davenport (MIT Media Lab); Carol Strohecker (Everyday Learning group, Media Lab Europe); Liberties Learning Initiative of Dublin's Digital Hub; National Centre for Technology and Education
Inspired by Deirdre Butler's Empowering Minds project, adults and children are learning to create with computational technologies within community centres in the Digital Hub and other areas of Dublin.

Kevin Jennings, James Bligh, Brendan Tangney (Trinity College Dublin); Carol Strohecker (Everyday Learning group, Media Lab Europe); Sile O'Modhrain (Palpable Machines group, Media Lab Europe)
A context for exploring percussive music representation and collaborative composition.

Completed projects

Brendan Donovan, Stephen Lewis, Carol Strohecker
A shortcoming of standard maps is their inability to convey a sense of temporal scale. Can I stroll to the park for lunch, or would it take me all day? Amble Time adds an element of time to a PDA-based tourist map. By using a GPS system and your average walking speed, it creates a bubble that indicates everywhere you could walk in an hour. Alternatively, given a final destination, Amble Time can show where you could roam along the way and still arrive on time. As your position changes and time ticks by, the bubble slowly shrinks and morphs until eventually it highlights the shortest path to your destination.

Brendan Donovan, Alison Wood, Glorianna Davenport, Carol Strohecker
This project focuses on enhancing the hiker's experience of remote locations by providing time/distance decision making tools and cinematic stories that relate to current conditions encountered while traversing the terrain, in this case an island off the coast of West Cork, Ireland. The prototype incorporates data from sensors carried on the hiker's person and presents the hiker with a map, displayed on a hand-held iPaq client, that presents weather, time and place-related representations; this interface also indicates where movies will be experienced. External conditions along with the hiker decision about how to best explore the area determines which cinematic sequences are released as part of the hiking experience. Later, at a pub or at home, the hiker may be able to experience denser or higher quality cinematic experience.

Mike Ananny, Carol Strohecker
This large-scale installation is an exploration of public collaborative publishing. We display a 3-by-3 grid of photos and associated captions on a building wall. Anyone viewing the wall can choose a photo for which they would like to create a caption, send a SMS text message with their caption and, after a delay of about 10 seconds, see their caption added to the wall. For each photo, TexTales displays the 3 most recent SMS captions.

Mauro Cherubini, Niall Winters, Jamie Rasmussen
Sensors and actuators in a miniature greenhouse connect to a simulation environment for experimenting with the time scales of environmental changes. Multiple representations of invisible quantities and abstract relationships provide a way 'in' for people with different thinking styles and starting points, and ways for a single learner to deepen understandings of principles such as the idea of acceptable risk and projections in time.

Matt Karau, Brendan Donovan, Carol Strohecker
This audio installation transforms a staircase into an imaginary hike along the wintry coast of Ireland's County Cork. As you step through, you hear recordings of bird songs played from speakers lining the walls. Accompanying sensors detect your rate of movement, proximity to 'birds,' and the amount of noise you make. These inputs form a degree of disturbance which triggers sounds emulating the birds' natural reactions.

Hervé Gomez, Matt Karau, Carol Strohecker
Each page of this electronically augmented book emits sounds to accompany the pictures and text. Additional sounds play according to properties of the physical environment. As the reader's voice and ambient light conditions change, the music and effects adjust to help bring the readers' world into that of the story characters'.

Carol Strohecker, Matt Karau, Brendan Donovan, Mike Ananny, Eva Jacobus, Oisin Boydell
Dino Stable is a learning environment for experimenting with principles of motion, in particular the role of centre of mass in balancing. Players unearth skeletal parts for virtual assembly as animistic creatures. Based on a constructed creature's number of legs, the location and mass of its centre, and a selected speed of movement, the software analyses whether the creature can balance as it moves - either it goes forth to frolic or collapses on the spot! Animations include a rich set of gait patterns deriving from literature on biomechanics and animal locomotion. Radio-frequency ID tags help to match physical bones to their virtual counterparts.

Brendan Donovan, Matt Karau, Mike Ananny, Carol Strohecker, Margaret Dekoli, Elisabeth Sylvan
In this collaboration with The Ark cultural centre, children and adults worked together to create bracelets, rings, necklaces and other decorative objects that glow, blink, or change colour as they respond to one another or to the wearer.

Glorianna Davenport, Jamie Rasmussen, Carol Strohecker (Media Lab Europe); Deirdre Butler (St. Patrick's College at Dublin City University)
The basis of Deirdre Butler's doctoral dissertation, this project is launching a new model of professional development through primary school teachers' learning about robotics and computational technologies side-by-side with their students.

Carol Strohecker (Everyday Learning group, Media Lab Europe); Bakhtiar Mikhak (Grassroots Invention group, MIT Media Lab); Brian MacCraith, Emma O'Brien (National Centre for Sensor Research, Dublin City University)
Detecting and controlling light, temperature and mositure conditions in botanical ecosystems.