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Research group overview

Principal investigator: Stefan Agamanolis

Humans have a fundamental need for contact with other humans. Our interactions and relationships with other people form a network that supports us, makes our lives meaningful, and ultimately enables us to survive. The Human Connectedness research group explores the topic of human relationships and how they are mediated by technology. Our mission is to conceive a new genre of technologies and experiences that allow us to build, maintain, and enhance relationships in new ways. We also aim to enable new kinds of individual bonds and communities that were not possible before but may be beneficial or fun.

Projects

Jonah Brucker-Cohen, Stefan Agamanolis
AudioBored is a public audio bulletin board that allows candid opinions, thoughts, ideas, and exclamations in the form of short audio messages to be posted live in a shared web space as well as a public audio installation. By calling a toll-free number on any telephone, anyone can leave a message on this bd share it with the world. These messages are organized by various themes and threads, and once posted they cannot be deleted.

Aoife Ní Mhóráin, Dipak Patel, Stefan Agamanolis
Aura is a prototype background communication device that aims to create a sense of emotional presence between two people who are separated by space or time. An augmented sleeping mask records sleeping rhythms and infers an emotional state of the wearer. This information is transmitted to a remote location and mapped to musical selections in a personal keepsake "music box" that represents the remote partner.

Florian Mueller, Stefan Agamanolis
Traditional sports foster bonding and team spirit through the sharing of a physically taxing competitive activity. This project aims to build the same sense of community over a distance, not with email and instant messengers, but with real balls, sweat, and exertion.

Jonah Brucker-Cohen, Mike Bennett
BumpList is a mailing list aiming to re-examine the culture and rules of online email lists. BumpList only allows for a maximum amount of subscribers so that when a new person subscribes, the first person to subscribe is "bumped", or unsubscribed from the list. Once subscribed, you can only be unsubscribed if someone else subscribes and "bumps" you off. The focus of the project is to determine if by attaching simple rules to communication mediums, the method and manner of correspondences that occur as well as behaviors of connection will change over time.

Jonah Brucker-Cohen, Stefan Agamanolis
Desktop Subversibles capitalizes on the ubiquity of our interactions with computer desktops to convey awareness of activity and a sense of shared network space among the members of an online community. The applications in the suite add a networked and physical dimension to standard desktop activities like copy/paste, mouse movements, and clicks to highlight their collective and collaborative potential.

Dipak Patel, Aoife Ní Mhóráin, Stefan Agamanolis
In family relationships, awareness of daily cycles and routines (or more importantly, deviation from these patterns) is particularly important. This awareness helps to convey reassurance and a sense of context for communication, and it provides a means for background synchronization of rhythms between those in the bond. Habitat explores the potential of using household furniture as a network of distributed ambient display appliances for conveying this kind of awareness between family members separated by a distance.

Marije Kanis, Stefan Agamanolis, Cian Cullinan (Media Lab Europe); Niall Winters (London Knowledge Lab)
Initial meetings and introductions mark the first moments of building new relationships. Yet these important moments are often awkward or forgotten, sometimes because of the natural failings of human memory (not being able to recall someone's name) or because there is a lack of a catalyst for a richer interaction. The iBand is a new wearable technology that aims to address these problems. The device is a bracelet that stores and exchanges information about you and your relationships. Data exchange occurs only when you shake hands with another user. Information gathered and processed is reflected on the bracelet itself and can serve as a reminder or as an ice breaker for further conversation.

Stefan Agamanolis
iCom is a multipoint awareness and communication portal for connecting remote social spaces. It operates in a continuous and background mode, integrated with the surrounding architecture. The portal enables awareness of remote activity and promotes a sense of community among those generating it -- be they colleagues, family members, or friends in distant lands.

Stefan Agamanolis
Isis, named after the Egyptian goddess of fertility, is a programming language that is specially tailored to support the development of demanding multimedia applications. The "lean and mean" philosophy behind the language gives it the flexibility to operate on a variety of platforms, from high power workstations and servers to set-top boxes and PDAs. Isis is also designed to be accessible to wider variety of users of different levels of expertise, with better inherent support for collaborations and an incremental approach to development. Its small yet complete syntax lessens the burden on programming novices while still allowing experienced hackers to take full advantage of their skills. Several prototypes and demonstrations at the Media Lab are written in Isis.

James Auger, Jimmy Loizeau, Stefan Agamanolis
The Iso-phone is a telecommunication device providing a service that can be described simply as a meeting of the telephone and the floatation tank. By blocking out peripheral sensory stimulation and distraction, the Iso-phone creates a telephonic communication space of heightened purity and focus.

Tomoko Hayashi, Stefan Agamanolis, Ciaran McGrath
Mutsugoto is an intimate communication device placed in the bedroom environment. Instead of exchanging e-mail or SMS messages using generic interfaces in business-like venues, Mutsugoto allows distant partners to communicate through the language of touch as expressed on the canvas of the human body. A specialized computer vision and projection system allows users to write or draw on their own bodies while laying in bed. Drawings made by one partner are transmitted to and revealed on the body of the remote partner.

Cian Cullinan, Stefan Agamanolis
An important feature of healthy interpersonal relationships is a sense of attachment and closeness that is endlessly evolving and carefully balanced to the mutual benefit of the individuals involved. Lack of contact, whether due to distance or other uncontrollable factors, can throw off this balance and cause unnecessary tension and hardship. In the One2One project, we are developing a technological infrastructure for creating personalized ambient communication links to enhance a sense of presence and togetherness between two distant individuals. We are exploring a variety of passive sensing and display devices to suit individual taste and the character of the relationship.

Cian Cullinan, Stefan Agamanolis (Human Connectedness group, Media Lab Europe); Denis Roche (Natural 5th Productions); Fran Hegarty (St. James Hospital, Dublin)
Hospital patients often feel isolated from the outside world and disconnected from the people that love them, especially if an illness requires residing within a single room for an extended period. These factors can lead to depression and a reduced potential for healing. This project attempts to counteract these effects by creating an always-on ambient aural and visual portal from the patient's room to a familiar place or environment to which the patient feels a strong connection.

Ben Piper, Stefan Agamanolis
A palimpsest is a manuscript consisting of a later writing superimposed upon an original writing. This word has been borrowed for the title of this project that aims to superimpose layers of recorded social interaction and present them as a single image. In contrast to conferencing tools and portals that enable chance encounters between distant locations, the Palimpsest facilitates chance encounters between different points in time.

Joëlle Bitton, Céline Coutrix, Stefan Agamanolis
A 'media space' is a system that integrates multiple types of media to connect distant places and groups of people. Unlike other media spaces, which often resemble nonstop video conferences, Passages uses computer vision in a new way that allows passers-by to approach as close to the interaction surface as they wish and to touch the silhouettes of their remote counterparts. The installation is intended to create a more intimate kind of portal between different cities in which one must engage the entire body to uncover the possibility of a relationship with a stranger.

Stefan Agamanolis
Portraits are a form of keepsake that play an important role in human relationships, particularly between people in different generations. Unlike a traditional static portrait, Portrait of Cati senses and reacts to the presence and motion of spectators. As an experiment in future forms of portraiture, Portait of Cati suggests ways that technologically-enhanced portraits can offer a more dynamic understanding of the identity and personality of the subject and forge a deeper connection between the subject and spectators of the portrait.

Joëlle Bitton, Stefan Agamanolis, Matthew Karau
Records and accounts of everyday life in our pasts and presents are often mediated by numerous third parties (researchers, producers, editors, and so on). We feel this mediation degrades the full sense of awareness and appreciation we could achieve of other peoples and places. The goal of the RAW project is to develop a new kind of recording tool, together with a method for processing and presenting the material captured with the tool, that enables a more direct, minimally-mediated relationship between its user and the later audience, possibly in a far away place or time.

Cian Cullinan, Stefan Agamanolis
Reflexion is an interpersonal video communication system that operates like a "magic mirror" in which you see a reflection of yourself together with the reflections of other participants in remote locations. The system responds to visual and auditory cues to appropriately compose the scene and emphasize the center of attention.

Jonah Brucker-Cohen, Stefan Agamanolis
SpeakerPhone is an inexpensive, modular platform of individually addressable speakers that enables sound to be targeted instantly to a precise location and to travel along a path. The project enables a range of presence applications including the creation of highly customized physically-navigable soundscapes and the transmission and layering of sound information across multiple locations in space or time.

Florian Mueller, Matthew Karau
Transparent Headphones consist of a pair of headphones with a high-quality microphone attached to the outside of each phone, and a computer that processes the audio signal and sends it to these headphones. This platform enables experiments in Transparent Hearing, including real-time audio alteration, multi-modal sensory integration, and collaborative listening experiences.

Arianna Bassoli, Julian Moore, Stefan Agamanolis
tunA is a mobile wireless application that allows users to share their music locally through handheld devices. Users can "tune in" to other nearby tunA music players and listen to what someone else is listening to. Developed on iPaqs and connected via 802.11b in ad-hoc mode, the application displays a list of people using tunA that are in range, gives access to their profile and playlist information, and enables synchronized peer-to-peer audio streaming.

Stefan Agamanolis
Traditional television is one-size-fits-all. Editing is fixed, and although viewers see the same thing, they often don't experience the same thing. Viper allows video producers to create responsive programs whose editing can change during viewing in response to preference or profile information, presentation equipment or conditions, or real-time sensor feedback.

Marije Kanis, Stefan Agamanolis
Magic wands have a presence in the history and legends of human cultures from thousands of years ago all the way to the present day. They are simple objects that respond to human gesture, speech, emotion, and even thought, and thanks to books and movies, they are widely understood from an early age as symbols of great empowerment. As such, the magic wand presents an interesting design opportunity as a form for a tangible computer interface. In addition to exploring the technology needed to build a magic wand interface, The WANDerful Alcove focuses on role-immersion scenarios in which these interfaces can have a socially tranforming effect on their users, serving as a catalyst for ad-hoc interaction and collaboration in a story experience.

Elena Corchero, Stefan Agamanolis
Gifts and keepsakes allow us to remember friends and loved ones when we travel or move to far away places. The whiSpiral is a new kind of keepsake that explores how technology can enhance the way garments and accessories evoke memories of these relationships. Circuitry integrated directly in the textile allows your friends to record short audio messages at different points in a spiral-shaped shawl. These messages are whispered back each time you wrap the shawl around yourself, or by caressing different parts of the fabric.