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Chris Schmandt
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Chris Schmandt

I like to build things that show new ways of communicating, and to create synthetic auditory experiences not available in the real world. Speech is about human communication.

When connectivity becomes ubiquitous, how might we use it to stay in touch with all the people we care about? I envision communication channels that are always on but not always transmitting, with characteristics that vary as activity around me changes. How can we harmonize our immediate environment with the remote parties at the other end of a channel? And how can we communicate richly and expressively, but not be constrained by the transmission technology?

Chris Schmandt Our family, social, and work lives are increasingly fragmented and "face time" is dear. As it becomes harder to be physically co-present, technology that enables virtual presence may help us hold things together. Mobile phones are great for talk, but are noisy and consume too much of our attention. Wireless PDAs are more programmable and text manageable, but are often awkward. I want to find the "sweet spots" of new communication methods that cause us to rethink connectivity, with user interfaces as comfortable as our favorite, well-worn clothes.

Yes, it's about speech, but not exclusively. Awareness channels may convey someone's activity or mood through low-bit-rate, always-on connections with ambient displays. Consider the baby monitor that signals my phone to chirp every time my child cries, or a watch that glows when my spouse is alone in her office. The awareness may itself be the goal, or may be the portal to richer synchronous communication.

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First computer: I hauled shopping carts of punch cards to whatever IBM mainframe was in the MIT Computing Center in 1971.
Copyright 2003 MIT Media Laboratory; Image Webb Chappell