MIT Media Lab Director Joi Ito started the Director’s Fellows Program in 2013 to connect the innovation and creativity of the Media Lab with a cohort of people from all over the world. Joi’s vision is to expand the reach and impact of the Media Lab, employing cutting-edge technology, ideas, and innovation to tackle unique challenges and propel forward the boundaries of research.
Director’s Fellows are offered a two-year honorary affiliation with the MIT Media Lab. The Fellows meet and collaborate with Lab students and faculty both on- and off-site to deploy Lab innovation, tackle real-world problems, and expand mutual learning and creativity.
How do we select candidates for the program? We consider each individual’s potential balance with the rest of the cohort, as well as her or his potential for impact. Each Director’s Fellow has something unique to share with the Lab, and each one engages differently based on serendipity and opportunity. What the Director’s Fellows share and what bonds them together is that they’re nothing like each other.
In its first two years, the program has already seen some successes out in the field.
In May 2014, Media Lab students and faculty collaborated with Director’s Fellows to bring 3D design software and robotic measurement tools to Kenya to road test the development and production of prosthetic sockets for limbs in remote locations.
Also in Kenya, the Media Lab team deployed an early prototype of a sound-and-motion sensor near a watering hole in a game reserve overnight to allow rangers to monitor animal movement and detect threats from poachers.
In October 2014, the Media Lab teamed up with Director’s Fellow and chess grandmaster Maurice Ashley at the Millionaire Chess Open in Las Vegas to deploy a unique algorithm to use predictive technology, visualization, and interface design to make chess education and commentary more accessible.