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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 The pages on this web site are for historical reference only.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

Liminal Devices

Principal investigator: Rebecca Allen

As mobile, wearable technology advances there will be increasing opportunities to engage in the physical world while coexisting in other times and places. In addition, access to multiple forms of communication, information, entertainment and creative expression will be greatly expanded. Can we design simultaneous realities that allow us to see and sense more than the world in front of us in ways that will enhance rather than overwhelm? The Liminal Devices group aims to create experiences and technologies that examine the threshold between virtual and physical reality and between our inner and outer states of awareness.


Enrico Costanza, Samuel Inverso, Alberto Perdomo, Hannes Nehls, Ronan Coyle, Rebecca Allen
Coexistence is a series of projects that imagine a future where the boundaries between physical and virtual reality are blurred and our thoughts and subtle body movements provide a direct interface. Through experiments using breath, bone conductance, muscle movement and brain signals one can interact with mixed realities that combine computer vision, computer graphics and positional tracking. Applications range from games that seamlessly merge physical space with virtual objects to brain signals, such as the P300, that can control devices and help us understand how we think.

Connecting Devices
Alberto Perdomo, Juanjo Andres Prado
Mobile devices need wireless communication. Devices must be able to communicate with other units and interact with them spontaneously, in a range of one to several meters. Developing mobile and wearable technologies places constraints on the size and power consumption. Different low power wireless technologies that address these problems are being evaluated in and a series of new wireless communication platforms is being designed and developed.

EMG for Mobile Computer Interfaces
Enrico Costanza, Alberto Perdomo, Samuel A. Inverso, Rebecca Allen
Rather than merely imitating the desktop metaphor for mobile devices, new interface paradigms that take into account the particular characteristics of mobility need to be developed. In this project we are studying the use of electromyographic (EMG) signals to develop new controllers for mobile interaction. These interfaces can be considered subtle or intimate because individuals are able to interact privately without causing distraction to their immediate environment.

Rebecca Allen, Samuel Inverso, Enrico Costanza, Alberto Perdomo
MyoPhone demonstrates an intimate interface using a peripheral display and EMG sensors to facilitate unobtrusive existence in simultaneous realities. By using subtle muscle contractions, MyoPhone can answer and respond to a call without disrupting activities in your physical environment. Incoming calls flash discreetly in one's peripheral vision and caller identities are displayed, equally discreetly, on the lens of a pair of glasses.

The Ring
Alberto Perdomo

Think and Spell
Rebecca Allen, Samuel Inverso
A Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) is a communication and control system that typically utilizes the electrical activity generated in the brain through Electroencephalogram (EEG) recording and signal processing techniques. EEG BCIs are based on a variety of brain activity including the P300 signal, which is a large signal that is evoked by task relevant and novel stimuli. Think and Spell is a P300 based BCI project utilizing and expanding upon the T9 word prediction algorithm (traditionally used for texting in mobile phones) by adding context aware semantics to more intelligently predict words and sentences.