I was a UROP (undergraduate researcher) and I took a few classes at the MIT Media Lab. My username in the lab is "theplaz".
The Media Lab is a fascinating place. It is an interdisciplinary lab located at MIT which studies how we interact with the world. It was originally supposed to be called the "Communications Lab." One of the main focuses is studying study how people interact with computers and the world. In fact, defining what the lab is all about is a challenge because it covers so much. It is made up of about 40 different groups, of which each has a professor, a few graduate students, and some undergraduates.
The Center for Future Banking  studies how our relation with money is affected by the technology. It's sponsored by Bank of America for a few million dollars a year. A recent project was to create a wallet that shows your current bank balance. The students work on the both technical aspects of creating the wallet and studying how it changes behavior. This is a good example of a lab project.
Another group is the Orchestra of the Future. I had never really considered the group's work to be directly marketable, but they invented Guitar Hero was a big hit. That goes to show that big hits come out of nowhere and projects that look like they will never amount to much in industry.
Another group is working with General Motors on creating a new car for an urban car sharing program. Again, the students are not just creating the car, but also studying the economics of existing car share programs. Another group is working prosthetic legs. This group seems to be a bit of a stretch for the lab, however, it's is all about how a machine can interface with a human.
The beauty of the lab is that sponsors fund the lab as a whole; not a certain project. That means that people are free to study what they want and collaborate. In addition, the goal is to be creating demos, not writing proposals or papers. The lab's motto is "demo or die," which is a play on "publish or perish" found elsewhere.
The book The Media Lab: Inventing the Future at M. I. T. (Paperback) is interesting because it was written in 1988. The Media Lab was at the cutting edge of products we take for granted today. My [[[MAS.110]] professor was a grad student at the time. The lab was studying "Paperback Movies" which we now know as DVDs. I'm still reading the book, but much of what the author talks about exists today in some form or other. It's interesting to think of today's visions of the future and how they turned out. That skill would be very useful. ng "Paperback Movies" which we now know as DVDs. The lab no only thinks up the ideas, but it develops them in depth technically. The motto of the lab is "demo or die"
The MIT Media Lab applies an unorthodox research approach to envision the impact of emerging technologies on everyday life-technologies that promise to fundamentally transform our most basic notions of human capabilities. Unconstrained by traditional disciplines, Lab designers, engineers, artists, and scientists work atelier-style in some 30 research groups conducting more than 400 projects that range from neuroengineering, to how children learn, to developing the city car of the future. Lab researchers foster a unique culture of learning by doing, developing technologies that empower people of all ages, from all walks of life, in all societies, to design and invent new possibilities for themselves and their communities.