Posts tagged with "MIT":

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Will the rise of self-driving vehicles signal the death of the traffic light?

The dawn of self driving cars promises to be an exciting new era for transport. However, what exactly lies ahead is still up for debate. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Swiss Institute of Technology (ETHZ), and the Italian National Research Council (CNR) have outlined how traffic signals could be rendered obsolete if automated vehicles get their way. The development is known as "slot-based intersections," and if realized, would significantly reduce queuing, delays, and pollution. If evidence from any science fiction movie is anything to go by, it's that humans have very little trust in automated technology. It's easy to picture: panic as your self-driving car appears to be careering into another, only to miss by a a tiny margin, all perfectly predicted by an automated system of course. That may be an exaggeration, but Professor Carlo Ratti, Director of the MIT Senseable City Lab and his team have produced a model that shows cars zipping through a four-way intersection both without stopping or slowing down and remaining unscathed. “Traffic intersections are particularly complex spaces, because you have two flows of traffic competing for the same piece of real estate,” he said in a press release regarding the study, published in detail here. “But a slot-based system moves the focus from the traffic level to the vehicle level. Ultimately, it’s a much more efficient system, because vehicles will get to an intersection exactly when there is a slot available to them.” Trust in such a system would have to be high. Communication between cars would have to be flawless and safety measures for failure would also have to be in place. That said, if implemented, the system would speed up journey time and also reduce pollution by cutting down on the time spent idle at traffic signals. Of course, signal-less interchanges already exist, they're called roundabouts. But the possibility for human error (and hence collisions) still exists in the roundabout, along with the need to give way to others.
"Slot-based intersections are similar to slot-based management systems used for air-traffic control," say the team. "Upon approaching an intersection, a vehicle automatically contacts a traffic management system to request access. Each self-driving vehicle is then assigned an individualized time or “slot” to enter the intersection." Speed limits could also change. If a perfect system can plot every movement, why not travel at the fastest, yet safest, possible speed? This is just one of the questions arising as self-driving cars become more and more likely to enter our lives. Would car lanes also be made thinner? Vehicles won't be making mistakes so why not cram as many in as we can and maximize efficiency? In terms of having a central traffic organizing system, getting different car manufacturers to be completely open with each other is another major bridge that would need to be crossed. And as for the more pressing issue of automated vehicles' interaction with humans, MIT's Senseable City Lab responds by saying: "slot-based intersections are flexible and can easily accommodate pedestrian and bicycle crossing with vehicular traffic."
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The World’s Largest Real Estate and Development Conference Has A Growing North American Contingent

MIPIM, the world's largest and most important real estate and development conference, attracts nearly 25,000 people to Cannes in the south of France every year. Like the Venice Biennale and the Saloni del Mobile in Milan, there are architects from around the world in attendance. However, there's also a small-but-growing group of influential designers from North America. Dutch architect Ben van Berkel and Berlin-based designer Jürgen Mayer H. both attend because they can meet with dozens of potential clients, both private and civic, in a single four day period. Some architects attend as members of development teams looking for investors; others come on their own to walk through the various pavilions and speak with groups seeking designers. There are pavilions sponsored by scores of moderately-sized cities (Lyon, Brussels, Palermo, etc.) and larger ones (Paris, Mexico City, Lagos etc.), all looking for investors and sometimes architects for their projects. For example, London and Istanbul's pavilions are enormous efforts sponsored by governments and development offices. Their tents feature large wooden models of their city that highlight development sites. A meeting in Cannes with the Turinese architect and engineer Carlo Ratti, Partner of CRA architects and Director of the MIT Senseabile lab, was instructive of why designers attend MIPIM. He took the opportunity to launch and promote a project he calls The Mile, a design for a one-mile high tower and observation decks that he developed with the German engineering firm schlaich Bergermann partners and British digital design studio Atmos. Ratti didn't design the one-mile high project with a residential or commercial business model in mind. Rather, it's a tourist-oriented structure like Paris’ Tour Eiffel or The London Eye. A structure twice as high as the next tallest building in the world, The Mile is conceived a structural, 20-meter-wide shaft “kept in compression and secured through a net of pre-stressed cables.” A series of orbiting capsules will allow visitors to gradually ascend to the top, enjoying the spectacular panorama at different speeds and approaches. These capsules can host meetings, dinners, concerts, or even swimming pools, thereby allowing people to inhabit the sky in unprecedented ways. These spaces will be equipped with open-air Virtual Reality screens that will create unique interactions with visitors' 360-degree view of the landscape. Aloft in the sky and unencumbered by VR headsets, you can see the city as is—or could be. From base to apex, the lightweight structure will offer a natural ecosystem covered by greenery and inhabited by hundreds of animal species. The Mile will be criss-crossed with a delicate latticework of transportation lines. As Ratti said, take New York City’s Central Park, turn it vertically, and then after “rolling it and twirling it,” you get something like this. The Italian architect was able to get this proposal in front of cities looking for iconic structures, developers looking for potential buildings to anchor a project, and journalists. There is no other gathering of parties involved in urban development like it anywhere in the world.
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Aggregate knowledge: Scientists at MIT discover how concrete behaves on a molecular level, could spur material advances

Suffice to say, we certainly know how concrete behaves at structural level—the material has been dominating cities and skylines since Joseph Monier invented a reinforced concrete in 1889. But until now, how the material works on a microscopic level has eluded scientists. Now, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have unearthed concrete's molecular properties, claiming their findings could lead to structural advances in the future. Traditionally, concrete uses a mixture of gravel, sand, cement, and water. In this case, a compound known as calcium-silicate-hydrate (CSH or cement hydrate) forms when the cement powder mixes with water. It essentially causes all the ingredients to solidify and become one. The phenomenon that has been baffling researchers many for years is whether concrete's molecular structure is comprised of continual bonds as found in stone and metal, or rather, as a sea of aggregate particle clumps bonded by (in the case of concrete) CSH. Researchers from MIT discovered in 2012 that during the first hour of the concrete mixing process, when CSH particles form, the size at which they form is apparently random and "not in homogenous spheres." As a result, such "diversity in the size of the nanoscale units leads to a denser, disorderly packing of the particles, which corresponds to stronger cement paste." However, the question regarding whether concrete was "considered a continuous matrix or an assembly of discrete particles" still remained. Predictably, the answer was "a bit of both." In a press release, Roland Pellenq, a senior research scientist in MIT’s department of civil and environmental engineering explained that the particle distribution facilitated almost every gap in the molecular structure to be filled by even smaller grains. This seemingly iterative process continued to the extent that Pellenq and his peers could approximate the material as a continuous solid. “Those grains are in a very strong interaction at the mesoscale,” said Pollenq. “You can always find a smaller grain to fit in between [the larger grains, hence] you can see it as a continuous material.” Pollenq did however, conclude his findings by stating that concrete could never be considered a true continuous material. This is due to the fact that grains within the CSH, unlike those in metal or stone, cannot reach a resting state of minimum energy. In other words, larger molecules can cause solid concrete to "creep" which makes the material susceptible to cracking and degradation over time. "Both views are correct, in some sense,” Pellenq concluded.
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MIT’s new ‘MultiFab’ 3D printer breakthrough capable of molding 10 materials at once

Soon, we might have 3D copy machines. Using powerful new technology, MIT's latest 3D printer boasts, according to Russia Today, almost "human-free usability" which allows it to print "ready to use" objects comprising of up to ten different materials. The development is being described by Gizmodo as a "giant leap" towards real-life replication as 3D printers strive for the ultimate goal of being able to produce functioning electronic parts. Already printers are capable of producing electronic circuits, however, MIT's printer named 'MultiFab' (echoing the name of the 'MultiVac' super-computer in Isaac Asimov's science fiction novel, The Last Question) is able to integrate these circuits into actual electronic components. This simplification of the manufacturing process hints at a future where a press of a button will be enough to produce such electronic mechanisms. A 3D scanner is also incorporated into the printer which allows the device to print onto existing components. This could mean that making future modifications to your smartphone, for example, is a very real possibility. Another advantage of this feature is that the printing process can be almost hands free. The scanner works in real time to make sure everything is aligned, telling the printer to make changes if necessary. In a release by the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) at MIT, the research team has described their printer as, "high-resolution, low-cost, extensible, and modular."  Advocating its possible use in education they also said that "students and teachers will be able to create complex mathematical figures, physics sets, lens systems, and anatomical models."
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Furniture with its own Mind: Researchers at MIT Create Self-Assembling Chair

Scientists at MIT dream of autonomous assembly lines that are free of machinery, human intervention, or fossil fuel expenditure—and still run 24/7. Researchers at the Self-Assembly Lab recently debuted a chair that assembled itself in a water tank over a period of seven hours. Each of the six component parts is embedded with a magnet and like an enzyme or jigsaw piece, each one has a unique connection point for hooking on to the others, thus dictating the final form. The assembly process, however, is anything but controlled. Fans at the bottom of the tank generate turbulence in the water, jostling the pieces and encouraging a series of trial-and-error collisions which eventually sees complementary pieces latch onto one another. “At close proximity, each piece should easily connect with its corresponding component but never with another one,” Bailey Zuniga, a student who led the research, told Wired. Self-assembly means finding a balance between randomness and control. One ultimate goal is self-repairing infrastructure, but too much leeway could make it very difficult to achieve a desired final form. Before vowing to never shell out another extortionate check for furniture delivery and installation, note that the chair is a mere six inches tall. A human-sized chair is in the pipeline as part of the Fluid Assembly Furniture project led by Skylar Tibbit. At present, the team is amassing quantitative data to better understand material properties and why certain shapes work better than others. “Finding a way to make the pieces more interchangeable would increase the chances of the pieces finding their matches,” said Zuniga. Other recent forays into self-assembling modules is the Aerial Assemblies project, in which 36-inch helium-filled balloons with fiberglass frames self-configure into a structural lattice in mid-air.
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Digital Incan Masonry by Matter Design

Architects update pre-Columbian building method with modern tools and materials.

Matter Design's latest installation, Round Room (on display at MIT's Keller Gallery last fall) was born of a "marriage" between two of the firm's ongoing interests, explained co-founder Brandon Clifford. First, Clifford and partner Wes McGee had long hoped to work with Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (AAC). Clifford, moreover, had been impressed during a trip to Cuzco by the Incan wedge method of masonry construction, in which precisely-carved stones are aligned on their front face, then backfilled with mortar. "This seemed like a tremendously rational way of building," he said. "Ever since then we had been wanting to do a project that translates that process into digital design." With Round Room, designed and fabricated in cooperation with Quarra Stone, Matter Design did just that. Though inspired by pre-Columbian building practices, the installation firmly situates the wedge method in the digital age. Clifford and McGee began by building a rough prototype, a six-component section resembling a half-dome. "We knew that we were going to build something that was round," said Clifford. "Not a sphere, but something that has slow changes in geometry." By focusing on curved spaces, the designers were already pushing the limits of the wedge method, historically limited to two-dimensional applications. With information gleaned from their prototyping session—including the general dimensions of individual units—they worked through a series of models in Grasshopper and Kangaroo, leaning on calculations developed for an earlier project, La Voûte de LeFevre. Clifford and McGee also visited Quarra Stone's Wisconsin facility. The trip "allowed us to get a feeling for where they were going to have problems with the geometry, and make changes," said McGee. "We were able to step in as consultant with respect to applying their tools."
  • Fabricator Quarra Stone
  • Designers Matter Design
  • Location Cambridge, MA
  • Date of Completion 2014
  • Material AAC, plaster
  • Process prototyping, Grasshopper, Kangaroo, robotic carving, shaving, plastering
Using a water-fed robotic arm, Quarra Stone cut the AAC components—no simple feat. "One critical translation from the Incan technique was the fact that the front edge aligns, but the backwards taper allows for mortar to be packed in," explained McGee. "[The blocks] are machined on five sides." Round Room's components were then shipped to Cambridge and assembled on site by a team of students, including Myung Duk Chung, Sixto Cordero, Patrick Evan Little, Chris Martin, Dave Miranowski, David Moses, Alexis Sablone, and Luisel Mayas. (Austin Smith also assisted throughout the project; Simpson Gumpertz & Heger acted as structural consultants.) The installation team placed the blocks, used scrapers to remove any excess AAC from the front (interior) edge, then piped plaster into the wedge-shaped gap on the back (exterior) side. "Though it was a digital fabrication process, the assembly was quite a craft," observed Clifford. The collaboration with Quarra Stone was a first for Matter Design, which had both designed and built all of its earlier projects. "It was beneficial for us to understand the nuances of what they had to deal with on a daily basis," said Clifford. In fact, the relationship was so successful that Clifford and McGee are continuing it, with a fellowship that will send two researchers to the Wisconsin fabricators. "It's an area we're going to continue working in pretty heavily," said McGee. "It's an opportunity to interrogate this information exchange between designers and fabricators at a higher level."
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Rebuild By Design> MIT’s Plan to Save New Jersey and Metropolitan New York

In early April, the ten finalists in the Rebuild By Design competition unveiled their proposals to protect the Tri-state region from the next Hurricane Sandy. And in the near future, a jury will select a winner—or winners—to receive federal funding to pursue their plans. But before that final announcement is made, here is a closer look at each of the final ten proposals, beginning with the team led by MIT. The New Meadowlands plan—by MIT, ZUS, and Urbanisten—aims to protect New Jersey and Metropolitan New York from future storms, and increase development at the same time. Using existing marshlands, the team proposes Meadowpark—a new public space that can provide a natural barrier against rising sea levels and storms. This park, and specifically its berms, will mitigate storm surge and reduce flooding. Surrounding Meadowpark is Meadowband, a ring of public space and bus-rapid transit routes that separates the marshland from proposed development. "The park and the band protect existing development areas," explained the team. "In order to be worthy of federal investment, it is imperative to use land more intensively. We propose shifting land-use zoning from suburban (single story, freestanding, open-space parking around structure) to more urban."
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Adele Naudé Santos Stepping Down as Dean at MIT

Add one more opening to the list of dean, director, and curator positions that need to be filled. Adele Naudé Santos is stepping down as dean of the School of Architecture and Planning at MIT after 10 years at the helm. During her time as dean, Santos consolidated the school from six locations to improve faculty interactions. She hired more than 40 percent of the current faculty and has also overseen a dramatic increase in applications for all the school's programs. She will return to the faculty as a professor of architecture and urban planning. MIT President L. Rafael Reif praised Santos in a statement: “I arrived at MIT just as the Media Lab was taking off,” he said. “In the 30 years since, the School of Architecture and Planning has continually renewed itself to stay on the cutting edge. Dean Santos brought to the role her considerable gifts as an architect and administrator, but we will always be most grateful for her remarkable eye for talent."
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MIT Media Lab Creates a Digital Interface That Reaches Into the Real World

Do you dream of a world in which your touch-screen could touch back? Where you can shape digital models with your hands, physically reach out to friends hundreds of miles away, and once again tangibly interact with the people and objects around you? The Tangible Media Group at MIT’s Media Lab has begun to probe this future of 3D interactive interfaces with their latest creation: inFORM. Functioning similarly to the metal pinscreen toy, inFORM combines a state-of-the-art table-mounted “screen” of 900 movable “pixels,” a hacked Microsoft Kinect, projector, and nearby computer to transmit palpable content back-and-forth between the digital and physical realms. Created by Daniel Leithinger, Sean Follmer, Alex Olwai, Akimitsue Hogge and Hiroshi Ishii, the breakthrough project allows for real-time user interaction with material objects and physicalized digital data, offering a glimpse into the exciting world of user interfaces that lie beyond the depthless, black touch-screens and skeuomorphic displays of today. As this technology progresses beyond inFORM’s simple 30x30 display, one could imagine a wealth of emerging applications, from remote medical operations to malleable, tactile architectural renderings, that may effectively unhinge the divide between virtual and corporeal space.
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Ten Teams Shortlisted for HUD’s Rebuild by Design Competition

In response to Hurricane Sandy, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) launched the Rebuild by Design competition to develop strategies to increase the resiliency of urban and coastal areas in the face of extreme weather events and climate change. According to HUD's website, the goal of the competition is "to promote innovation by developing regionally-scalable but locally-contextual solutions that increase resilience in the region, and to implement selected proposals with both public and private funding dedicated to this effort. The competition also represents a policy innovation by committing to set aside HUD Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funding specifically to incentivize implementation of winning projects and proposals. Examples of design solutions are expected to range in scope and scale—from large-scale green infrastructure to small-scale residential resiliency retrofits." The shortlist of 10 teams—including architects, landscape architects, university groups, developers, engineers and others—has been announced. Interboro Partners with the New Jersey Institute of Technology Infrastructure Planning Program; TU Delft; Project Projects; RFA Investments; IMG Rebel; Center for Urban Pedagogy; David Rusk; Apex; Deltares; Bosch Slabbers; H+N+S; and Palmbout Urban Landscapes. PennDesign/OLIN with PennPraxis, Buro Happold, HR&A Advisors, and E-Design Dynamics WXY architecture + urban design / West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture with ARCADIS Engineering and the Stevens Institute of Technology, Rutgers University; Maxine Griffith; Parsons the New School for Design; Duke University; BJH Advisors; and Mary Edna Fraser. OMA with Royal Haskoning DHV; Balmori Associaties; R/GA; and HR&A Advisors. HR&A Advisors with Cooper, Robertson, & Partners; Grimshaw; Langan Engineering; W Architecture; Hargreaves Associates; Alamo Architects; Urban Green Council; Ironstate Development; Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation; New City America. SCAPE Landscape Architecture with Parsons Brinckerhoff; SeARC Ecological Consulting; Ocean and Coastal Consultants; The New York Harbor School; Phil Orton/Stevens Institute; Paul Greenberg; LOT-EK; and MTWTF. Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Advanced Urbanism and the Dutch Delta Collaborative with ZUS; De Urbanisten; Deltares; 75B; and Volker Infra Design. Sasaki Associates with Rutgers University and ARUP. Bjarke Ingels Group with One Architecture; Starr Whitehouse; James Lima Planning & Development; Green Shield Ecology; Buro Happold; AEA Consulting; and Project Projects. unabridged Architecture with Mississippi State University; Waggoner and Ball Architects; Gulf Coast Community Design; and the Center for Urban Pedagogy.
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Urban Farming Duo Plants Seeds for Boston’s First Rooftop Farm

While rooftop farming has cropped up in a number of cities across the country, it has yet to take root in Boston. But this will soon change when founders Courtney Hennessey and John Stoddard launch operations of their new rooftop farm, aptly called Higher Ground Farm, located atop the Boston Design Center this Spring. According to CoLab Radio at MIT, the duo will start planting on a 40,000-square-feet segment of the expansive 55,000-square-feet roof within the next few months and be ready to sell the fresh produce by summer. The farm is coming at just the right time—the city is making a real push to encourage more urban farming. The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) has introduced Article 89, an urban agriculture zoning initiative that will “establish an environment in which all of our citizens—particularly the most underserved—have direct access to locally produced fresh food, the ability to produce food for themselves, and access to education and knowledge about healthy eating.” Hennessey and Stoddard have made a dent in their fundraising efforts through kickstarter and fundraisers, but still need more money to get the farm completely off the ground. They hope to secure more capital to reach their $300,000 goal with the help of loans and grants.
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TED Fellow Skylar Tibbits Leads April 12 Workshop

Did you miss 3-D printing guru Skylar Tibbits at this year’s TED conference? Never fear, there’s an opportunity to hear Tibbits in New York City on April 12. And not just hear but participate in a hands-on workshop that Tibbits will lead as part of Facades + PERFORMANCE, a two-day conference on high-performance building enclosures sponsored by The Architect’s Newspaper. Earlier this week at TED, Tibbits gave 3-D printing another dimension, quite literally, when he presented the possibility of "4-D printing," or programming materials to self-reassemble into new structures over time. Tibbits unveiled a 4-D printer concept developed with MIT that he argues could have far-reaching implications for not just manufacturing but also for architecture. Will architects one day be able to design structures that build and mend themselves? Here's the idea, as Tibbits told TED: "If we combine the processes that natural systems offer intrinsically—genetic instructions, energy production, error correction—with those artificial or synthetic—programmability for design and scaffold, structure, mechanisms—we can potentially have extremely large-scale quasi-biological and quasi-synthetic architectural organisms." Trained as an architect and a computer scientist,  Tibbits directs MIT's Self-Assembly Lab and teaches in the school's architecture department. He got his start working with the likes of Zaha Hadid and Asymptote Architecture, later founding SJET LLC, a multidisciplinary research based practice. Along the way, Tibbits was named a "Revolutionary Mind" by SEED Magazine in 2008, and in 2011 he was awarded a 2011 TED Fellowship, becoming TED Senior Fellow in 2012. At his April 12 workshop, Tibbits will introduce Python for Rhino, a program that has been a foundation of his work, and cover covered topics ranging from Running Scripts, Syntax, Data Types, and Variables to Flow Control, Tuples/Lists/Dictionaries, Points/Vectors, Functions, Paneling and Recursion. The training portion of the workshop will concentrate on IronPython within Rhino. To register for the workshop and for the April 11-12 conference, where experts in the industry will analyze, discuss, and dispute the development, implementation, and maintenance of facades, click here.