Even the lieutenant of the USS Enterprise can learn a thing or two at MIT. George Takei, the “Star Trek” helmsman-turned-social-media-star, recently traveled to Boston to explore the hub of technology for his web series, “Takei’s Take.” During his trip, as the delightfully earnest video shows, Takei stopped by MIT to meet students and check out innovations at the Media Lab and the Age Lab.
At MIT’s Media Lab, Takei visited the Tangible Media Group, led by Hiroshi Ishii, the Jerome B. Weisner Professor of Media Arts and Sciences. Ishii and PhD student Sean Follmer SM ’11 demonstrated their inFORM system, an interactive system display that physically renders 3-D content. Calling it a new type of paintbrush and ink for designers and artists, Ishii described how architects can remotely manipulate objects as they collaborate on a project.
Takei’s next stop was the MIT AgeLab to meet Miss Daisy, a car that responds to the needs of aging drivers. AgeLab’s founder and director Joe Coughlin also introduced Takei to AGNES, or “Age Gain Now Empathy System.” This bulky suit limits the wearer’s range of motion, mimicking the effects of aging. Although Takei playfully accused AGNES of ageism, he was won over by the researchers’ commitment to human connection, empathy, and art.
Noting that almost every tech company in the Boston area has roots at MIT, Takei also toured a number of “spinoffs” founded by MIT alumni and faculty that are shaping Boston’s innovation ecosystem. Among them:
Avid Technology. Since its founding in 1987 by Bill Warner ’80, Avid has provided cutting edge audio and digital solutions for media makers. Avid solutions have been recognized with numerous awards, including two Oscars®, a Grammy®, and 14 Emmys®.
Greentown Labs, a startup that rents out prototyping space to entrepreneurs. The incubator gives early-stage startups the space and equipment to create and collaborate on products. Cofounders Jeremy Pitts MBA ’10 and Adam Rein MBA ’10 attended the MIT Sloan School of Management.
Rise Robotics, whose mission is to “democratize robotics” by designing biologically inspired robotics parts that are affordable and easy to use. Cofounder and Product Director Blake Sessions ’11, cofounder and CEO Arron Acosta ’10, and Chief Product Developer Toomas Sepp ’11 all honed their engineering skills as undergraduates at MIT.
Bolt Incubator, a prototyping shop focused on later-stage companies. In addition to space and tools, Bolt provides seed funding to help startups move their products to market. Among Bolt’s team of experts is General Partner and cofounder Axel Bichara SM ’88.
Rethink Robotics, which builds robots that can work safely alongside humans on production lines. Rethink’s Baxter robot can be trained to perform specific repetitive tasks, and has “common sense” to adapt to a variety of tasks and environments. Professor emeritus Rodney Brooks founded Rethink Robotics in 2008.
Watch the first three episodes of “Takei’s Take” in Boston. The final installment is scheduled to air next week: