Media Lab Berlin — Signal & Noise

Monica Vlad

Sunday — Friday
August 12, 2018 —
August 17, 2018

Media Lab Berlin is a week-long prototyping workshop

Media Lab researchers, university students from across Europe, and corporate collaborators engage in a dialogue between machines, design, and humans. What are the signals that connect us? How do we make sense of the noise? Participants will collaborate in small teams guided by Media Lab mentors and invited experts. Together, we will create new technologies and use technology in new ways to answer these questions.

Media Lab Berlin is like attending the Media Lab for one week. It's the blueprint for a new, antidisciplinary type of higher education—merging science, engineering, art, and design; connecting academia, civil society, start-ups, and global enterprises.

What do the machines we build say about us?

Let’s find out! We’ll pay special attention to the values we bring to the process of designing technology, and we'll interrogate the relationship between developers and users.

Platform Berlin

Berlin is full of contrast and tension. East and West. Obviously. Unspeakable past and hopeful future. Signal and Noise. Berlin, like the Media Lab, thrives on creative disobedience. Where a wall built to keep ideas and people apart was first spray-painted with graffiti and then torn down.

Talk & Reception

The workshop concludes with a talk by Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab, followed by demos with the workshop teams, a panel discussion with partner companies and guests, and a reception. 

Workshop Tracks (see details below) 

01   Machine learning for creative AI
02  Blockchain and the Internet of value
03  VR/AR-based learning experience
04  Technology for communication with the Deaf
05  Playful machines that make music


(Sunday) Welcome & Kick Off
(Monday) Field Visits
(Tuesday-Friday) Prototyping 
(Friday) Demos, Public Talk, Reception  

Research Tracks

01 Machine learning for creative AI

Track Lead: Stefania Druga, Sarah T. Vu

Track Mentors: Jude Pullen, Rachel Uwa, Gene Kogan, Piotr Migdal, Joscha Bach, Jas Sidhu, Anja Melander, Agata Checinska

Much of our daily life is quietly being reshaped by AI. The best way to understand the algorithms that drive these AI is to make your own, to write and train them. The Creative AI track consists of a series of hands-on activities focused on using machine learning tools for new ways of communicating among humans and machines. Both beginners and more advanced developers are welcome. In this track participants will practice building small AI projects in a week. Together we will explore the social and ethical conditions of machine learning while engaging with a the local community of artists and AI pioneers in Berlin. The things we will do include collecting and building databases from scratch and using deep neural networks for Image recognition and processing, and the creation of generative art and music. 

02 Blockchain and the Internet of value

Team Leads: Neha Narula, Thaddeus “Tadge” Dryja

Cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology promise to make moving value across the Internet as intuitive and efficient as moving information.  The idea behind this technology is that people can come together and form a secure, verifiable history of data without any trusted third parties.  This enables interesting new applications: transferring money without a bank, writing simple, enforceable contracts without a lawyer, or turning real estate, digital music, or the rights to locally generated solar energy into digital assets that can be created and transferred instantaneously without a broker. In this track, a team from the Media Lab’s Digital Currency Initiative will work with local partners to prototype the use of blockchain technology in an area of local relevance. Participants will go through the process of analyzing possible applications, selecting a use-case of particular relevance in the context of Berlin, and developing a first prototype of their application. Previous experience with a programming language like Python, C++, Java, or Go is required. Experience with blockchains or writing Go is a bonus.

03 VR/AR-based learning experiences

Track Lead: Scott Greenwald

Using Virtual, Mixed, and Augmented Reality we can immerse ourselves in current or historic places. This allows us to gain new insights into historical circumstances, increase awareness of local context, and deepen our understanding of culture and history. Whether in the context of higher education, museums, or public service campaigns, this creates powerful new ways to learn.

In this track, participants will the latest 3D capture technologies to create an immersive experience for a unique piece of Berlin history; work with local collaborators who act as curators and stewards of Berlin history and culture; capture volumetric video, create 3D assets, and combine them with archival media to create novel ways to experience history. 

04 Technology for communication with the Deaf

Track Leads: Christine Sun Kim, Harper Reed

Track Mentor: Nicolás Della Penna

This track will explore ways to facilitate communication between deaf and non-deaf people. We will consider the use of different technologies including group chat solutions that can better support in-person conversations; hacking and training AI assistants to allow the use of non-speech sounds as voice commands; or completely new input devices for non-speech communication. The track will be supported by two live interpreters and we especially encourage deaf students to apply; ability to communicate in ASL is preferred.

05 Playful machines that make music 

Track Leads: Xiao Xiao, Akito van Troyer

Track Mentors: Liang ZhipengBianca Cheng Costanzo

Together we will develop and use new technologies to redesign the experience of music making, emphasizing the creative potential of technology, and the  collaborative and social nature of play. This track will work at the intersection of technology, music, and play (and playful learning). It is open to software and hardware developers, mechanical engineers, musicians, and designers (and if you consider yourself more than one of these, that's a bonus). We plan to  interact with the electronic music community in Berlin and will end the workshop with a short performance. 

More Events