It may seem that video will be the only effective medium for spreading information online. But a new experiment by MIT researchers shows that video clips have a marginally larger effect on political persuasion than just the written word.

“Our conclusion is that watching a video is no more persuasive than reading a text,” says David Rand, an MIT professor and co-author of a new paper detailing the results of the study.

The study comes amid widespread concern about political misinformation online, including the possibility that technology-enabled “deepfake” videos can easily convince many people to believe false claims.

“Technological advances have created new opportunities for people to falsify video footage, but we still know surprisingly little about how individuals process political video versus text,” said MIT researcher on the paper. Chloe Wittenberg says “Before we can identify strategies to combat the spread of deepfakes, we first need to answer these more basic questions about the role of video in political persuasion.”

The paper, “The (Minimal) Persuasion Advantage of Political Video over Text,” is published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Co-author Adam J. Berinsky is the Mitsui Professor of Political Science; Rand, Irwin H. Scales Professor and Professor of Management Science and Brain and Cognitive Sciences; Ben Tappin, postdoc in the Human Cooperation Lab; and Chloe Wittenberg, doctoral student in the Department of Political Science.

belief and persuasion

The study works on the difference between the credibility of videos and their persuasion. That is, viewers may find a video believable, but may not change their point of view in response. Alternatively, a video may not seem believable to a large portion of the audience, but may still change the attitude or behavior of the audience.

For example, Rand says, “When you see a stain remover ad, they all have the same format, where some stain gets on the shirt, you put the remover on it, and it goes into the washer.” And hey, look, the stain is gone. So, one question is: do you believe this happened, or was it just a hoax? And the second question is, how much stain remover do you want to buy? The answers should not be closely related.”

To conduct the study, MIT researchers performed a pair of survey experiments involving 7,609 Americans, using the Lucid and Dynata platforms. The first study included 48 advertisements obtained through the Peoria Project, a collection of political material. Survey participants either saw an ad, read the ad copy, or didn’t receive any information. (Each participant did this several times.) For each ad, participants were asked whether the message sounded believable and whether they agreed with its main message. They were then shown a series of questions to measure whether they found the topic personally important and whether they wanted more information.

The second study followed the same format, but included 24 popular video clips about COVID-19 taken from YouTube.

Overall, the results showed that video performed slightly better than text on the reliability front, but had less relative advantage when it came to persuasion. Participants were generally more likely to believe that the events actually occurred when they were shown in a video, not as described in a written transcript. However, the advantage of video over text was only a third as large when it came to changing participants’ attitudes and behavior.

As a further indication of this limited motivational advantage of video versus text, the difference between reading the transcript and viewing the video was as great as the difference between reading the transcript (with participants who received no information) and watching the video. in between.

These differences were surprisingly stable across all groups. For example, in the second study, there were only small differences in the effects observed for political versus non-political messages about COVID-19, suggesting that there are findings in different types of content. The researchers did not find significant differences among respondents based on factors such as age, political partisanship and political knowledge.

“Seeing is believable,” says Berinsky, “but our study shows that just because a video is more believable doesn’t mean it can change people’s minds.”

questions about online behavior

The scholars acknowledge that the study did not exactly replicate the situations in which people consume information online, but they suggest that the main findings provide valuable insights about the relative power of video versus text.

“It’s possible that things are a little different in real life,” Rand says. “It’s possible that when you’re scrolling through your newsfeed, the video captures your attention more than the text. You may be more likely to see it. That doesn’t mean that the video is more natural than the text. The look is more persuasive – just that it has the potential to reach a wider audience.”

That said, the MIT team notes that there are some clear directions for future research in this area — including the question of whether people are more inclined to watch videos than to read material.

“Some people may prefer to watch a video to read the text,” Tappin says. “For example, platforms like TikTok are heavily video-based, and the audience is mostly young adults. Among such audiences, a small persuasive advantage of video over text can grow rapidly because video can reach so many people. Future research may explore these and other ideas.”

The study was supported by funding from Ara, a technology research incubator maintained by Google.

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Former MIT ombudsman Mary Rowe has donated professional papers As part of the Distinguished Collection for the Department of MIT Libraries [email protected] Archival Initiative, which highlights the contribution of women to the Institute by accessing, preserving and making their personal archives accessible. Rowe is a conflict management specialist whose work contributed to MIT having one of the world’s first anti-harassment policies and one of the first organizational ombudsman offices. Important parts of his collection are now digital Through libraries, making the history of Rowe’s groundbreaking work more accessible.

“We are thrilled to be able to make this collection available,” says Alex McGee, interim head of public services and [email protected] Project collectors for the Distinguished Collection at MIT Libraries. “Not only will this be a valuable resource for any researcher interested in the issues of conflict management, discrimination, gender equality, sexual harassment, and a systems approach to all workplace issues, but it will also be a valuable resource for women at MIT.” Also sheds light on the work involved in documenting and improving conditions for them.”

Rowe served for nearly 42 years as Special Assistant to the President and the Ombudsman, a designated neutral party available to every member of the MIT community. President Jerome Wisner and then-Chancellor Paul Gray designed the office for him to be an impartial, confidential resource; She would not keep any case records for MIT and would not have an office of “notice” at the institute. Rowe was to be an independent resource reporting only to the President and the Chancellor, if necessary, with access to the MIT Corporation. She had to exercise “informally”—meaning no authority to make general management decisions or provide redress—and may not need anyone to oversee her.

In his more than four decades as an Ombudsman, Rowe has received over 20,000 constituent visits (with concerns and good ideas) and worked with nearly 100 small and large affinity groups dealing with substantial workplace issues. He worked with each component to try to develop alternatives of their choice in dealing with their concerns. With permission, and upon request, she often helped bring issues to the attention of the institute’s decision makers.

Rowe’s position, called “Special Assistant for Women and Work,” debuted at MIT in 1973, when she reported directly to President Weisner and Chancellor Gray. She was joined by Clarence G Williams in 1974 as Special Assistant for Minority Affairs. From the very beginning, each of them looked after everyone who came to see them about any workplace problems. He then formally became the first ombudsman (or ombudsman) at MIT when then-President Gray established the Office of Ombuds in 1980. The Ombuds Office is a confidential and independent resource for all members of the MIT community to constructively manage their respective concerns and conflicts. Experience in the Institute.

Rowe’s work has had a profound impact on MIT – helping to shape the institute’s policies on harassment, discrimination, conflicts of interest and other research integrity issues as well as the ombudsman profession globally. He helped define the role of the Organizational Ombudsman and advance widely accepted standards of practice. An assistant professor of negotiation and management at MIT Sloan since 1985, Rowe built on MIT’s deep contributions to systems theory, coining the term “zero-constraint office” to highlight the unusual role of the Ombudsman in a conflict management system. He also coined the terms “micro-aggression” and “micro-affirmation” in 1973, about micro-aggression by Chester M. Pierce’s influential research. Rowe collaborated with Robert B. McCarthy and Richard E. To develop a curriculum on negotiation and conflict management at the MIT Sloan School of Management in the 1980s. Walton’s seminal work, the first of its kind.

“It takes a village to support an ombudsman’s office,” Rowe says. The Ombuds office that began at MIT and spawned two archival collections began with a vision — and value — of affinity groups at MIT and the presidents of Jerome Wisner and Paul Gray. Students, staff, teachers, postdocs, alums, and wives We were guided and inspired day by day by our constant endeavor to exemplify the ‘mind, hand and heart’ and share concerns and good thoughts. I am very grateful to the Distinguished Collections for their inspiring initiative of creating those who wish to be more visible to all human beings.”

Rowe’s Ombudsman Papers Closely Linked MIT’s administrative records of his tenure, also organized by Distinguished Collection. The newly digitized material includes items identified by Rowe as integral to the ombudsman profession (by the standards of practice, organizational ombudsmen keep no case records). The 38-box collection of material includes some of Rowe’s publications as well as records from several ombudsman associations, reflecting the evolving nature of the profession and highlighting workplace issues that emerged at specific times. Contents document practices of the Organizational Ombudsman in many types of organizations, including government, academic, corporate, multinational, international and non-profit organizations.

Rowe’s papers, digitized with the support of Jean-Jacques DeGroff SM ’93, PhD ’02, included as part of the [email protected] Archival Initiative, linking records of female faculty, staff, students and alumni wants. Historical records by collecting, preserving and sharing his life and work with MIT and global audiences. Building on this initiative, Distinguished Collections is also making efforts to obtain, preserve, and make accessible papers from non-binary and non-conforming individuals at MIT to help share their stories and contributions.

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Typically, expensive high-speed cameras are required to record fast motion at high temporal resolution. Fortunately, video interpolation, the act of estimating the intermediate frames between two given frames, can be an easier option.

a photo camera.

a photo camera. Image credit: Pxhere, CC0 Public Domain

A recent paper published on proposes a new video frame interpolation method.

The researchers propose to use both video frames and event streams as inputs to address complex non-linear motion. The problem of lack of intermediate information in traditional frame-based cameras is solved by introducing an event camera. Event streams have been introduced into the unsupervised learning framework to directly estimate the optical flow between the intermediate frame and the input frame.

The proposed approach performs favorably against state-of-the-art approaches on both synthetic benchmarks and on real data.

Recording fast motion at high FPS (frames-per-second) requires expensive high-speed cameras. As an alternative, projecting low-FPS video from commodity cameras has attracted significant attention. If only low-fps videos are available, motion estimates (linear or quadratic) are necessary to estimate intermediate frames, which fail to model complex motions. Event camera, a new camera with pixels that produce brightness change events at a temporal resolution of μs ,10,6 second ,, is a game-changing device for enabling video interpolation in the presence of arbitrarily complex motion. Since the event camera is a new sensor, its potential has not been fulfilled due to lack of processing algorithms. The pioneering action time lens pioneered event cameras for video interpolation by designing optical devices to collect a large amount of training data coupled to high-speed frames and events, which is very expensive on a large scale. To fully unlock the potential of event cameras, this paper proposes a novel timerplayer algorithm to interpolate video captured by commodity cameras with events. It is trained in an arbitrary cycle-compatible style, eliminating the need for high-speed training data and bringing in the additional capability of video extrapolation. Its cutting-edge results and the demo video in the supplement reveal the promising future of event-based vision.

Research Paper: He, W., “Time Replacer: Unlocking the Potential of Event Cameras for Video Interpolation”, 2022. Link:
Project Page:

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Lithium-ion batteries, the wonders of light power that made possible today’s era of handheld electronics and electric vehicles, have declined in cost since their introduction at a rate similar to the decline in solar panel prices three decades ago, as have that is documented by a study. Published last March. But what is the reason for such an astonishing cost drop of about 97 percent?

Some of the researchers behind that earlier study have now analyzed what is responsible for the extraordinary savings. They found that by far the biggest factor was work on research and development, particularly in chemistry and materials science. This outweighed the gains achieved through economies of scale, although it became the second largest category of deduction.

The new findings are being published today in the journal Energy and Environmental ScienceIn a paper by MIT postdoc Micah Ziegler, recent graduate student Juhyun Song PhD ’19, and professor Jessica Transic at MIT’s Institute for Data, Systems and Society.

According to Transic, the findings could be useful for policy makers and planners to help guide spending priorities for this and other important energy storage technologies to continue the path toward always-low costs. Their work shows that there is still a lot of room for further improvement in electrochemical battery technologies, she says.

The analysis requires digging through a variety of sources, as most of the relevant information consists of closely owned business data. “The data collection effort was extensive,” Ziegler says. “We looked at academic articles, industry and government reports, press releases and specification papers. We also saw some legal filings that came to the fore. We had to piece together data from many different sources to get an idea of ​​what was happening. He says they collected “about 15,000 qualitative and quantitative data points across 1,000 individual records from approximately 280 contexts.”

Data from the earliest times are the most difficult to access and may contain the greatest uncertainties, says Transic, but he attempted to account for these uncertainties by comparing different data sources from the same period.

Overall, she says, “we estimate that most of the cost decline, more than 50 percent, has come from activities related to research and development.” This involved both private sector and government-funded research and development, and within that R&D category the “vast majority” of that cost decline came from chemistry and materials research.

It was an interesting discovery, she says, because “there were so many variables that people were working through a lot of different endeavors,” including the design of battery cells, their manufacturing systems, supply chains, and more. “Cost improvements emerged from the efforts and diverse set of many people, not just the work of a few individuals.”

The findings about the importance of investing in R&D were particularly important, Ziegler says, because much of this investment occurred after the commercialization of lithium-ion battery technology, a stage at which some analysts thought that Research contributions will become less important. Over a nearly 20-year period starting five years after the battery’s introduction in the early 1990s, he says, “most of the cost reduction still came from R&D. R&D contributions ended when commercialization began.” It didn’t happen. In fact, it was still the biggest contributor to cost reduction.”

The study took advantage of an analytical approach that Trancic and his team had initially developed to analyze the similarly sharp decline in the cost of silicon solar panels over the past few decades. He also applied the approach of understanding the rising cost of nuclear power. “It’s really happening at a fundamental mechanism of technological change,” she says. “And we can even develop these models over time, which allows us to uncover levers that people can use to improve the technology in the future.”

She says that one advantage of the methodology that Trancic and her colleagues developed is that it helps reconcile the relative importance of different factors when multiple variables are changing simultaneously, which is usually the case in a technique. as an improvement. “It’s not just adding up the cost effects of these variables,” she says, “because many of these variables affect many different cost components. There’s a complex web of such dependencies.” But the team’s methodology is This makes it possible to see “how the overall cost change can be attributed to those variables, by essentially mapping out that network of dependencies,” she says.

It can help provide guidance on public spending, private investment and other incentives. “What are all the things that different decision makers can do?” she asks. “What decisions do they have so that they can improve the technology, which is important in the case of low-carbon technologies, where we are looking for solutions to climate change and we have limited time and limited resources? It allows us to be a little more intentional about where we invest the time and money.”

“This paper aggregates available data in a systematic way to determine changes in cost components of lithium-ion batteries between 1990–1995 and 2010–2015,” says Laura Diaz Anadon, a professor of climate change policy at the University of Cambridge. , which was not associated with this research. “This period was a pivotal one in the history of the technology, and understanding the evolution of cost components lays the groundwork for future work on the mechanism and may help inform research efforts in other types of batteries.”

The research was supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Environmental Defense Fund and the MIT Technology and Policy Program.

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When cloud storage firm Dropbox decided to close its offices with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, co-founder and CEO Drew Houston ’05 had to send nearly 3,000 of the company’s employees home and tell them they could not work. But not coming back. anytime soon. “It felt like I was declaring a snow day or something.”

In the early days of the pandemic, Houston says Dropbox reacted as many others did to make sure employees were safe and customers were taken care of. “It is real, there is no playbook on Zoom for running a global company in a pandemic. For a lot of this we were taking it as we go. ,

Houston talked about her experience leading Dropbox through a public health crisis and how COVID-19 has hit MIT’s Stephen A. In a fireside chat with Dan Huttenlocher, dean of Schwarzman College of Computing, distributed work has accelerated.

During the discussion, Houston also mentioned its $10 million gift to MIT, which would provide the first shared professorship between the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing and the MIT Sloan School of Management, as well as providing a catalyst startup fund for the college. .

“The goal is to find ways to unlock more of our brainpower through a multidisciplinary approach between computing and management,” Houston says. “It’s often at the intersection of these disciplines where you can bring people together from different perspectives, where you can really unlock big. I think academia has a big role to play. [here], and I think MIT is in a very good position to lead. So, I want to do anything I can to help with that.”

virtual first

While the sudden swing to remote work was unexpected, Houston says it was pretty clear that the whole way of working as we knew it was going to change indefinitely for knowledge workers. “There’s a silver lining to every crisis,” says Houston, noting that people have been using Dropbox for years to do things more flexibly, so it’s time for the company to lean on and be early adopters of the distributed work paradigm. It makes sense to become one in which employees work in different physical locations.

Dropbox redesigned the work experience across the company in October 2020, unveiling a “virtual first” working model, with remote work being the primary experience for all employees. Personal work spaces went by the wayside and offices located in areas with high concentrations of employees were converted into combination and collaborative spaces called Dropbox studios for working individually with teammates.

“There is a lot we can say about Covid, but for me, the most important thing is that we will look back in 2020 as the year when we are going to be working out of offices permanently, mainly working out of screens. Were were It’s a transition that’s been going on for a while, but Covid has completely ended the swing,” says Houston.

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Imagining a Future Workplace: A Fireside Chat with Dropbox’s Drew Houston

Designing for the workplace of the future

Houston says the pandemic prompted Dropbox to reevaluate its product line and think about ways to improve. “We have this whole new way of working that’s forced upon us. Nobody designed it; it just happened. Even tools like Zoom, Slack and Dropbox are old world and designed for that.” were done.”

Going through that process helped Dropbox gain clarity on where they could add value and led to the realization that they needed to go back to their roots. “In many ways, what people in theory need today is exactly what they needed in the beginning — a place for all their stuff,” Houston says.

Dropbox revamped its product roadmap to revamp efforts from syncing files to organizing cloud content. The company is focusing on moving towards this new direction with the release of new automation features that users can easily implement to better organize their uploaded content and find it quickly. Dropbox also recently announced the acquisition of Command E, a universal search and productivity company to help accelerate its efforts in this area.

Houston sees Dropbox as still evolving and sees many opportunities ahead in this new era of distributed work. “We need to design better tools and smart systems. It’s not just the individual parts, but how they are woven together.” He is surprised at how little intelligence is actually integrated into current systems and He believes that rapid advances in AI and machine learning will soon lead to a new generation of smart tools that will eventually reshape the nature of work – “in the same way that we had with the new generation of cloud tools.” It has revolutionized the way we work and we have all the advantages we could not have imagined.”

founding roots

Houston famously turned its frustrations on carrying USB drives and emailing the files to itself in a demo by becoming Dropbox.

After graduating from MIT in 2005 with bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering and computer science, he, along with fellow classmate Arash Ferdowsi, co-founded Dropbox in 2007 and created a platform for a service used by 700 million people worldwide. Led the company’s development from simple thought. Today.

Houston credits MIT with preparing her well for her entrepreneurial journey, recalling that what surprised her most about her student experience was how much she learned outside of the classroom. At the event, he emphasized the importance of developing both sides of the brain to a select group of computer science and management students who were in attendance, and a wider live stream audience. “One thing you learn about starting a company is that the hardest problems usually aren’t technical problems; they’re people problems.” He says he didn’t realize it at the time, but that some of his first lessons in management were gained by taking on responsibilities in his fraternity and in various student organizations, creating a sense of being “on the hook”.

As CEO, Houston has had the opportunity to see behind the scenes how things happen and appreciate that problems don’t solve themselves. While individual people can make a big difference, he points out that many of the challenges facing the world at the moment are inherently multidisciplinary, which sparked his interest in the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing.

He says the college’s mindset of connecting computing to other disciplines resonated and inspired him to launch his biggest philanthropic effort as soon as possible because “we don’t have that much time to address these problems.”

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Sometimes, the software is just like us. It can be bloated, slow and messy. One can see a doctor if these symptoms persist (perhaps not for a glitch), but rarely do we push a flawed software program to see its developer over and over again.

The answer to why our software is flawed lies in a web of reliance on flashy hardware, the limitations of a “code-and-fix” approach, and inadequate design. MIT Professor Daniel Jackson, associate director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), looked to existing limitations to create a new framework to improve the way our programs function. His theory of software design takes a human-centered approach that views an app as a collection of interacting concepts. Jackson’s new book, “The Essence of Software,” draws on his many years of software research, including designing an open source language and analyzer alloy for software modeling.

Why: Worms. Security flaws. Design flaws. Has software always been bad?

a: The software is actually better than ever. It’s just that the power and functionality of software has grown so fast that we haven’t always been able to keep up with it. And there are some software products (for example Apple Keynote) that are close to perfect – easy to use, flexible, almost no bugs. My book provides a vision that will empower everyone to make software good.

Why: In your new book, “The Essence of Software,” you introduce a theory of software design that shows how a software system can be viewed as “a collection of interaction concepts.” How does this overturn conventional wisdom?

a: First, conventional wisdom sees the user experience primarily in the user interface – its layout, colors, labels, etc. The concept design goes deeper, addressing the fundamental mechanisms and user experiences created by the programmer.

Second, most apps have large areas of overlapping functionality, but current approaches do not recognize this, and developers repeatedly create similar pieces of functionality as if they were new, without taking advantage of the fact that they were built multiple times. Huh. before this. For example, just think about how many social media apps have implemented up-voting or comments or favorites. Concepts allow you to identify these reuse opportunities and take advantage of accumulated design knowledge.

Why: The year 2021 was one of the worst years for data breaches and cyber attacks – we have seen fragility in everything from electronic medical records to social media and big tech companies. Can your approach help with security loopholes?

a: A high proportion of safety and security issues come from a lack of clarity in the design. Concepts can help with this. More directly, concepts can ensure that users truly understand the implications of their actions, and we know that many disasters happen because users do the wrong thing. In the field of security, allowing the user to do something wrong (such as granting access to someone who shouldn’t have access) is usually the easiest way to control a system. So, if you can design an app that makes it harder for users to do things they will regret, you can reduce this problem.

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Shardul Chiplunkar, a senior in Course 18C (Maths with Computer Science), entered MIT with an interest in computers, but was soon trying to do everything from extinguishing fires to building firewalls. He worked in audio engineering and glass blowing, had a stint for the MIT/Wellesley Toons a cappella group, and learned to sail.

“When I was entering MIT, I thought I would be interested in math and computer science, academics, and research.” “Now what I appreciate most is diversity of people and ideas.”

Academically, his focus is on the interface between people and programming. But his extracurriculars have helped him realize his secondary goal, to be a translator of sorts between the tech world and professional users of software.

“I want to create a better conceptual framework to explain and understand complex software systems, and to develop better tools and methodologies for professional software development at large through fundamental research in programming languages ​​and the theory of human-computer interaction.” “

It’s a role he was practically born to play. Growing up in Silicon Valley, at the height of the dot-com bubble, he was drawn to computers at an early age. He was 8 years old when his family moved to Pune, India for his father’s job as a networking software engineer. In Pune, his mother also worked as a translator, editor and radio newscaster. Chiplunkar could eventually speak English, Hindi, French and his native Marathi.

At school, he was active in math and coding competitions, and a friend introduced him to linguistic puzzles, which he recalls were “like math.” He excelled at the Linguistics Olympiad, where secondary school students solve problems based on linguistics – the scientific study of languages.

Chiplunkar came to MIT to study what he calls the “Perfect Major,” course 18c. But as the child of a tech dad and a translator mom, it was perhaps inevitable that Chiplunkar would figure out how to combine the two disciplines into a unique career trajectory.

While he was a natural at human languages, it was a Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory undergraduate Research Opportunities program that solidified his interest in researching programming languages. Under Professor Adam Hiddle, he developed a specification language for Internet firewalls, and a formally verified compiler to convert such specifications into executable code, using correct-by-construction software synthesis and proof-of-construction techniques. developed by

“Let’s say you want to block a certain website,” Chiplunkar explains. “You open your firewall and enter the website address, how long you want it to block, and so on. You have some parameters in a built in language that tells the firewall what code to run. But you How to know that a firewall will code that language without a mistake? That was the gist of the project. I was trying to create a language to specify the behavior of firewalls mathematically, and to convert it into code and to prove that the code will do what you want it to do. The software will come with mathematically proven guarantees.”

He has also explored proximate interests in probabilistic programming languages ​​and program inference through cognitive science research, working under Professor Tobias Gerstenberg at Stanford University and later Joshua Rule in the Tenenbaum Laboratory in MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. working under.

Chiplunkar says, “In regular programming languages, the basic data you deal with are atomic, fixed numbers. But in probabilistic programming languages, you deal with probability distributions. Instead of a constant five, you can have one random variable.” which has an average value of five, but every time you run the program it is somewhere between zero and 10. It turns out that you can calculate with these probabilities as well – and that some aspects of human cognition are computerized. There’s a more powerful way to model. Language lets you express concepts that you can’t express otherwise.”

“There are many reasons I love computational cognitive science, the same reasons I love programming and human languages,” he explains. “Human cognition can often be expressed in a representation that is like a programming language. It is more of an abstract representation. We do not know what actually happens in the brain, but the hypothesis is that some level of abstraction But, it is a good model for how cognition works.

Chiplunkar also hopes to bring a better understanding of modern software systems to the public domain, to empower techno-curious communities such as lawyers, policy makers, doctors and educators. To aid in this pursuit, he has taken courses at MIT on Internet policy and copyright law, and follows the work of digital rights and freedom activists. He believes that talking about the architecture of computer systems for broader social purposes requires a fundamentally new language and concepts for programmers.

“I want us to be able to explain why a surgeon should rely on a robotic surgery assistant, or how a law about data storage needs to be updated for modern systems.” “I think creating better conceptual languages ​​for complex software is just as important as creating better practical tools. Because complex software is so important in the world now, I want the computing industry – and I – to engage with a wider audience. be better able.

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As her topic for the 2021 Mildred S Dresselhaus lecture, Stanford University professor Jelena Vuskovic posed a question: Are computers better than humans at designing photonics?

Throughout his speech, presented in a hybrid format to more than 500 attendees on November 15, the Jensen Huang Professor in Global Leadership at the Stanford School of Engineering presented several examples arguing that yes, computer software Can help identify better solutions than traditional methods. Leading to smaller, more efficient devices as well as completely new functionalities.

Photonics, the science of guiding and manipulating light, is used in many applications such as optical interconnects, optical computing platforms for AI or quantum computing, augmented reality glasses, biosensors, medical imaging systems, and sensors in autonomous vehicles.

For all of these applications, Vuskovic said, multiple optical components must be integrated onto a single chip that can fit the footprint of your glasses or mobile device. Unfortunately, there are several problems with high-density photonic integration. Conventional photonic components are large, sensitive to environmental factors such as fabrication errors and temperature changes, and are designed by manual tuning with few parameters. So, Vuskovic and his team asked, “How can we design better photonics?”

His answer: Photonics inverse design. In this process, scientists rely on sophisticated computational tools and modern computing platforms to find the optimal photonic solution or device design for a particular function. In this inverse process, the researcher first considers how he or she would like the photonic block to operate, then uses computer software to find the entire parameter space of possible solutions that is optimal, within construction restrictions.

From guiding light around corners to dividing colors of light in a compact footprint, Vuskovic presented several examples to prove this process – using computer software to conduct physics-guided searches of many possibilities. Unconventional solutions are generated that increase the efficiency and/or reduce the footprint of photonic devices.

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2021 Mildred S. Dresselhaus Lecture: Jelena Vuskovic, Stanford University

Enabling New Functionalities – High-Energy Physics

State-of-the-art particle accelerators, which use microwave or radio frequency waves to propel charged particles, can be the size of a full city block; For example, Stanford’s SLAC National Accelerator Lab is two miles long. Low-energy accelerators, such as those used in medical radiation facilities, are not that large but still occupy an entire room, are expensive, and are not very accessible. “If we can use a different spectrum of electromagnetic waves with shorter wavelengths to do the same thing as accelerating particles,” Vuskovic said, “we should, in principle, reduce the size of an accelerator.” should be able to.” The solution is not as simple as reducing the size of all parts, as electromagnetic building blocks will not work for optical waves. Instead, Vuskovic and his team used the inverse design process to create new building blocks, and built a single-stage on-chip integrated laser-driver particle accelerator that is only 30 micrometers in length.

Micrograph of a micrometer-long piece of fabricated silicon.

A few-micrometer-long piece of fabricated silicon that acts as a compact stage of a particle accelerator and accelerates electrons by interacting with a coupled laser field. This structure can shrink linear accelerators on a silicon chip from miles to an inch.

Image courtesy of Jelena Vukovic.

Applying inversely designed photonics to practical environments

Autonomous vehicles have a large lidar system on the roof housing mechanics that enables the rotation of the beam to scan the environment. Vuskovic considers how it can be improved. “Could you build this system inside the footprint of a chip that would be like another sensor in your car, and could it be cheaper?” Through inverse design, his research group found optimal photonic structures to enable beams to be driven with lasers cheaper than with state-of-the-art systems, and gained 5 degrees of additional beam steering.

Next up: Scaling up a superconducting quantum processor on a diamond or silicon carbide chip. In this example, Vuskovic retracts the 2020 Dresselhaus lecture given by Harvard Professor Evelyn Hu on taking advantage of defects at the nanoscale. By relying on impurities at low concentrations in these materials, naturally trapped atoms can be very useful for quantum applications. Vuskovic’s group is working on material development and fabrication techniques that allow them to place these trapped atoms in the desired state with minimal defects.

“For many applications, letting computer software search for an optimal solution leads to better solutions than you designed or anticipated based on your intuition. And the process is material-agnostic, in line with commercial foundry.” compatible, and enables new functionalities,” Vuskovic said. “Even if you try to build something better than traditional solutions – one that is smaller in footprint or higher in efficiency – we can come up with many solutions that are equally as good or less efficient than before. better. We’re re-learning photonics and electromagnetics in the process.”

Mildred S. Honoring Dresselhaus and Jean Dresselhaus

Vuskovic was the third speaker to deliver the Dresselhaus Lecture, established in 2019 to honor the late MIT physics and electrical engineering professor Mildred Dresselhaus. This year, the lecture was also dedicated to Jean Dresselhaus, the famous physicist and husband of Millie, who passed away at the end of September 2021.

Jing Kang, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, opened the lecture by reflecting on Dresselhaus’s scientific achievements. Kong highlights the American Physical Society’s Oliver E. Buckley Condensed-Matter Physics Prize—considered the most prestigious award given in the field of condensed-matter physics—given to both Millie (2008) and Jean (2022). “Although they worked together on many important topics,” Kong said, “it is remarkable that they received this award for separate research work. It is our privilege to follow in their footsteps.”

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While standing in the kitchen, you push a few metal bowls across the counter into the sink with a clang, and drape a towel over the back of a chair. In the other room, it looks like some precariously stacked wooden blocks fell off, and there’s an epic toy car accident. These interactions with our environment are something that humans experience on a daily basis at home, but this world may seem real, but it is not.

A new study from researchers at MIT, the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab, Harvard University and Stanford University is enabling a rich virtual world, which is like stepping into “The Matrix.” Their platform, called Thredworld (TDW), simulates high-fidelity audio and visual environments, both indoor and outdoor, and allows users, objects and mobile agents to interact in real life and according to the laws of physics. allows. Object orientations, physical characteristics and velocities are calculated and calculated for liquids, soft bodies and hard objects, as interactions occur, producing precise collision and impact sounds.

TDW is unique in that it is designed to be flexible and generic, generate synthetic photo-realistic visual and audio renderings in real time, which can be compiled into audio-visual datasets, interacting within the scene Can be modified through, and adapted to human and nervous. Network learning and prediction testing. A variety of robotic agents and avatars can also be created within controlled simulations to perform, say, action planning and execution. And using virtual reality (VR), human attention and play behavior within space can provide real-world data, for example.

Study lead author Chuang Gan, MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab research scientist, says, “We are trying to build a general-purpose simulation platform that mimics the interactive richness of the real world for a variety of AI applications. “

Creating realistic virtual worlds with which to investigate human behavior and train robots has been a dream of AI and cognitive science researchers. “Most AI right now is based on supervised learning, which relies on huge datasets of human-annotated images or sounds,” says Josh McDermott, an associate professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences (BCS) and an MIT-IBM Watson AI. Lab Project Lead. These descriptions are expensive to compile, creating a bottleneck for research. And for physical properties of objects, such as mass, which are not always readily apparent to human observers, labels may not be available at all. A simulator like TDW overcomes this problem by generating a view where all parameters and annotations are known. Many competing simulations were inspired by this concern but designed for specific applications; Through its flexibility, TDW aims to enable many applications that are poorly suited for other platforms.

Another advantage of TDW, McDermott notes, is that it provides a controlled setting to understand the learning process and facilitate the improvement of AI robots. Robotic systems that rely on trial and error can be taught in an environment where they cannot cause physical harm. Furthermore, “many of us are excited about the doors that open for experiments on humans to understand human perception and cognition in this type of virtual world. These very rich sensory landscapes have the potential to create , where you still have total control and complete knowledge of what is happening in the environment.”

McDermott, Gan, and their colleagues are presenting this research at the Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS) in December.

behind the structure

The work began as a collaboration between a group of MIT professors, along with Stanford and IBM researchers, who linked individual research interests to hearing, vision, cognition and perceptual intelligence. TDW brought these together on one platform. “We were all interested in the idea of ​​building a virtual world for the purpose of training AI systems that we could actually use as brain models,” says McDermott, who studies human and machine hearing. does. “So, we thought this kind of environment, where you could have objects that would interact with each other and then present realistic sensory data from them, would be a valuable way to start studying this.”

To achieve this, the researchers built TDW on a video game platform called the Unity3D Engine and is committed to incorporating both visual and auditory data rendering without any animation. The simulation consists of two components: the build, which renders the images, synthesizes the audio, and runs the physics simulation; and Controller, which is a Python-based interface where the user sends commands to the build. Researchers build and populate a scene by dragging furniture pieces, animals and vehicles from an extensive 3D model library of objects. These models accurately respond to light changes, and their physical structure and orientation in the scene dictate their physical behavior in space. Dynamic lighting models accurately simulate visible illumination, creating shadows and blurring that correspond to the appropriate time of day and sun angle. The team has also created a well-equipped virtual floor plan that the researchers can fill with agents and avatars. To synthesize true-to-life audio, TDW uses generative models of effects sounds that are triggered by collisions or other object interactions within the simulation. TDW also simulates noise attenuation and reverberation according to the geometry of space and the objects in it.

Reactions between two physics engines and interacting objects in TDW power distortions—one for rigid bodies, and the other for soft objects and liquids. TDW calculates instantaneousness with respect to mass, volume and density as well as any frictional or other forces acting on the material. This allows machine learning models to learn how objects with different physical properties will behave together.

Users, agents and avatars can bring scenes to life in a number of ways. A researcher can apply force directly to an object through controller commands, which can virtually set a virtual ball in motion. Avatars may be empowered to act or behave in a certain way within space – for example, with articulated organs capable of performing work experiments. Finally, VR heads and handsets could allow users to interact with virtual environments, potentially to generate human behavioral data that machine learning models can learn.

rich AI experience

To test and demonstrate TDW’s unique features, capabilities, and applications, the team ran a battery of tests comparing datasets generated by TDW and other virtual simulations. The team found that neural networks trained on scene image snapshots with randomly placed camera angles from TDW outperformed snapshots of other simulations in image classification tests and are closer to systems trained on real-world images. The researchers also designed and trained a material classification model in TDW on audio clips of small objects falling on surfaces and asked it to identify the types of interacting materials. They found that TDW earned a significant advantage over its competitors. Additional object-drop testing with neural networks trained on TDW showed that the combination of audio and vision is the best way to identify physical properties of objects, prompting further studies of audio-visual integration.

TDW is proving particularly useful for designing and testing systems that understand how physical phenomena in a scene will evolve over time. This includes facilitating a benchmark of how well a model or algorithm makes physical predictions, for example, the stability of a stack of objects, or the motion of objects after a collision – humans learn many of these concepts as children. learn, but many machines need to demonstrate this ability to be useful in the real world. TDW has also enabled comparisons of human curiosity and prediction against machine agents designed to evaluate social interactions in different scenarios.

Gan points out that these applications are only the tip of the iceberg. By expanding TDW’s physical simulation capabilities to more accurately depict the real world, “we are seeking to create new benchmarks for advancing AI technologies, and use these benchmarks to open up many new problems.” which have been difficult to study until now.”

The research team on the paper also includes MIT engineers Jeremy Schwartz and Seth Alter, who are critical to the operation of TDW; BCS Professors James DiCarlo and Joshua Tenenbaum; graduate students Aidan Curtis and Martin Shrimpf; and former postdocs James Traer (now an adjunct professor at the University of Iowa) and Jonas Kubilius PhD ’08. His collaborators are IBM director of the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab David Cox; Research Software Engineer Abhishek Bhandardar; and Dan Gutfreund, IBM’s research staff member. Additional researcher co-authors are Harvard University assistant professor Julian de Freitas; and from Stanford University, assistant professors Daniel LK Yamins (a TDW founder) and Nick Haber, postdoc Daniel M. Bear, and graduate students Megumi Sano, Kuno Kim, Elias Wang, Damien Moroca, Kevin Feigelis and Michael Lingelbach.

This research was supported by the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab.

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Every holiday season, a popular new video game causes a disproportionate amount of hype, anticipation, and last-minute purchases. But some of them offer a completely new way of playing the game. Even less has ripple effects that reach far beyond the gaming universe.

When Guitar Hero was released in 2005, challenging players to hit notes for classic rock songs on guitar-like controllers, it grew from a holiday hit to a cultural phenomenon that inspired a new generation of rock. Taught to love ‘n’ roll music. Along the way, it showed the video game industry the power of innovative, music-based games.

Guitar Hero and the related Rock Band franchise were developed by Harmonix Music Systems, formed at MIT’s Media Lab more than 25 years ago after a pair of friends set out to help people interact with music. technology began to be used. Since then, it has released over a dozen games that have helped millions of people experience the thrill of making music.

“The thing we’ve always tried to accomplish is to innovate in musical gameplay,” says Aron Egozzi ’93, SM ’95, a professor of practice in music and theater arts at MIT, who worked in the company with Alex Rigopulos. was co-founded. ’92, SM ’94. “That’s what the company is constantly trying to do – creating new types of compelling music experiences.”

To further that mission, Harmonix became part of industry giant Epic Games last month. It’s a major milestone for a company that has seen its game go from small passion projects to ubiquitous sources of expression and fun.

Egozi has seen harmonics games on the tour buses of famous bands, at the offices of tech giants like Google, in bars hosting “Rock Band Nights” and being featured in popular TV shows. Most importantly, they are heard from music teachers who say that the games inspired children to play real instruments.

In fact, Egozi just heard from the principal of his son’s school that the reason he plays drums is a rock band.

“This is probably the most gratifying part,” says Igozzi, who plays the clarinet professionally. “Of course, we had high hopes and aspirations when we started the company, but we didn’t think we’d really make such a big impact. We’re completely surprised.”

mission driven launch

As an undergraduate at MIT, Egozy majored in electrical engineering and computer science and majored in music, But he didn’t even think about combining computers and music until he attended an undergraduate research opportunity program in the Media Lab under then-graduate student Michael Hawley.

The experience inspired Egozzi to earn his master’s degree at Media Lab’s Opera of the Future group, led by Todd Machovar, where he began building software that produced music based on intuitive controls. He also met Rigopulos at the Media Lab, who quickly became a friend and colleague.

“Alex had this idea: Wouldn’t it be cool if we took a joystick that had a more friendly interface and used that to play the parameters of our generative music system?” The ego remembers.

The joystick-based system immediately became one of the most popular demonstrations at the Media Lab, prompting the pair to participate in the MIT $10K Entrepreneurship Contest (today MIT $100K).

“I think MIT has filled me with the feeling that there’s no point in trying to do something that someone has already done,” Egozi says. “If you’re going to work on something, try to do something inventive. It’s a widespread attitude around MIT, not just in the Media Lab.”

After graduation, Egozzi and Rigopulos knew they wanted to continue working on the system, but doubted they could find a company that would pay them to do so. Harmonics was born out of that simple logic.

The founders spent the next four years working on the technology, which led to a product called the X, which Egozzi describes as a “total flop”. They also built a system for Disney at Epcot Amusement Park and attempted to integrate their software with karaoke machines in Japan.

“We endured many failures trying to figure out what our business was all about, and it took us a long time to find a way to fulfill our mission, which is to make everyone in the world experience the joy of making music. As it turns out, that was through video games,” Egozi says.

Many of the company’s first video games weren’t huge hits, but by iterating on the core platform, Harmonix was able to continually improve the design and gameplay.

As a result, when it came time to create Guitar Hero around 2005, the founders had music, graphics and design systems they knew could work with unique controllers.

Igozzi has described Guitar Hero as a relatively low-budget project within Harmonix. The company had two games in development at the time, and the Guitar Hero team was small. It was also a quick turnaround: He finished Guitar Hero in about nine months.

Through its other releases, the Harmonix team was trained to expect most of its sales to come in the weeks leading up to the Christmas holiday, and then essentially close the sale. With Guitar Hero, the game sold out incredibly quickly – so quickly that retailers immediately wanted more, and the company that made the guitar controllers had to multiply their orders with manufacturers.

But what really surprised the founders was that January sales surpassed those of December. …then February surpassed January. In fact, month after month, the sales graph looked like nothing Harmonix’s team of 45 people had seen before.

“It was mostly shock and disbelief within Harmonix,” says Egozi. “We just love making Guitar Hero. It was the game we’ve always wanted to make. Everyone at Harmonix was involved in some sort of music. The company had a band room so people could go and jam. And so the fact that it also sold really well was extremely gratifying – and very unexpected.”

After that things went fast for Harmonix. Work on Guitar Hero 2 began immediately. Guitar Hero was taken over by Activision, and Harmonix was acquired by MTV Networks for several years. Harmonix developed the Rock Band franchise, which brought players together for lead guitar, bass, keyboards, drums and vocals of popular songs.

“It was really wonderful because it was about a group effort,” says Egozzi. “Rock Band was social in the sense that everyone was playing music together in the same room, not competing, but working toward a common goal.”

an ongoing legacy

Over the past decade, Harmonix has continued to explore new ways of musical gameplay with releases such as SingSpace, which offers a social karaoke experience, and Fuser, a DJ-inspired game that lets users mix and match different tracks. lets you. The company also released Rock Band VR, which makes players feel like they’re on stage in front of a live audience.

These days Egozzi, who has been on the board since becoming a full-time professor at MIT in 2014, teaches 21M.385/6.185 (Interactive Music Systems), a class that combines computer science, interaction design, and music. “This is the class I wish I was in here at MIT as an undergrad,” says Egozzi.

And every semester, the class visits the Harmonix office. They are often told that it is the students’ favorite part of the class.

“I’m really proud of what we were able to do, and I’m still amazed and humbled by our cultural influence,” Igozzi says. “There’s a generation of kids who grew up playing these games that have learned about all this music from the ’70s and ’80s. I’m really glad we were able to introduce kids to that great music.”

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