What should our devices – smart phones, watches and the like – do for us? While they currently increase our efficiency and accessibility, they also distract us from the world around while walking, driving and conversing with others. Professor Pattie Maes, pioneering authority on human-computer interaction and AI, leads a team of innovators at the MIT Media Lab’s Fluid Interfaces research group that designs new devices that integrate more seamlessly with our minds and bodies. Ultimately, they are reinventing the way humans and machines interact, connecting us with our digital futures.
Maes, who was a featured expert in a 60 Minutes segment on the radical innovations emanating from the Media Lab, argues that the scary cyborgs of sci-fi lore are indeed coming, but we will be the cyborgs, operating systems that blend our intelligence with that of machines. Maes’ keynote presentations not only explain and demonstrate these new technologies, but help organizations develop proactive strategies for capitalizing on their groundbreaking potential.
Arguing that we already operate as part-computer beings thanks to our ever-present mobile phones, Maes focuses on making these devices more useful to our at-hand tasks, and less distracting. “We’re living simultaneously but superficially in the real and digital worlds, multitasking, continually interrupting ourselves by checking our smartphones 100+ times a day,” says Maes. “But in the long term [technology] has the potential to be less disruptive while supporting us to flourish.”
Maes and her team have developed devices that help us focus, make better decisions, and be more creative, as well as devices that project digital images in the physical world to help us with chores, repairs and learning new languages, to name just a few tasks. This latter technology, augmented reality (AR), will according to Maes in both visual and auditory form revolutionize everything from entertainment to education and job training.
Ultimately, we will all become the cyborgs that so many of us still fear. Perhaps we can take refuge in that fact, but we also cannot become complacent. Pattie Maes is the foremost authority on AR and human augmentation through computer technology. If anyone can help us – as individuals and as organizations – navigate our cyborg futures, it’s her.