Pattie Maes was the key architect behind what was once called "collaborative filtering" and has become a key to Web 2.0: the immense engine of recommendations -- or "things like this" -- fueled by other users. In the 1990s, Maes' Software Agents program at MIT created Firefly, a technology (and then a startup sold to Microsoft) that let users choose songs they liked, and find similar songs they'd never heard of, by taking cues from others with similar taste. This brought a sea change in the way we interact with software, with culture and with one another.
Now Maes is working on a similarly boundary-breaking initiative. She founded Fluid Interfaces Group, also part of the MIT Media Lab, to rethink the ways in which humans and computers interact, partially by redefining both human and computer. In Maes' world (and really, in all of ours), the computer is no longer a distinct object, but a source of intelligence that's embedded in our environment. By outfitting ourselves with digital accessories, we can continually learn from (and teach) our surroundings. The uses of this tech -- from healthcare to home furnishings, warfare to supermarkets -- are powerful and increasingly real.
When Pranav Mistry was a PhD student in the Fluid Interfaces Group at MIT's Media Lab, he worked with lab director Pattie Maes to create some of the most entertaining and thought-provoking interfaces the world had ever seen. And not just computer interfaces, mind you -- these are ways to help the digital and the actual worlds interface. Imagine: intelligent sticky notes, Quickies, that can be searched and can send reminders; a pen that draws in 3D; and TaPuMa, a tangible public map that can act as Google of physical world. And of course the legendary SixthSense, which is now open sourced
Before his studies at MIT, he worked with Microsoft as a UX researcher; he's a graduate of IIT. Now, as director of research at Samsung Research America, Mistry heads the Think Tank Team, an interdisciplinary group of researchers that hunts for new ways to mix digital informational with real-world interactions. As an example, Mistry launched the company's smartwatch, the Galaxy Gear, in 2013.