Frank Moss ’71 (Webb Chappell)
New Book: The Sorcerers and Their Apprentices: How the Digital Magicians of the MIT Media Lab Are Creating the Innovative Technologies That Will Transform Our Lives, by Frank Moss ’71 (Crown Business)
The author: Until recently Moss was the director of MIT’s famed Media Lab, the interdisciplinary incubator of such innovations as an e-reader, LEGO Mindstorms robotic toys, and child-safe airbags. Today he is a professor of the practice at the MIT Media Lab, where he heads the new media medicine group. An entrepreneur in the software and computer industries, Moss was CEO and chairman of the software maker Tivoli Systems and cofounder of companies including Infinity Pharmaceuticals and his latest startup venture, Bluefin Labs.
The book: Moss takes readers on a tour of the MIT Media Lab, introducing them to the inventors and their innovative projects and “how they grew out of an environment that totally defies the conventional wisdom of what a research lab ‘should be.’” Among the technologies in development that he explores are Nexi, a mobile humanoid robot that can serve as a companion for the sick and elderly, and SixthSense, a compact wearable device that transforms any surface into a touch-screen computer.
From the book: “‘Andy, are we ready?’ Grant Elliott, a twenty-eight-year-old Ph.D. candidate in electrical engineering, is hovering over Andrew Marecki, a twenty-one-year-old MIT senior mechanical engineering major, who is working with him for the summer. Marecki is sitting cross-legged on the floor of the crowded Biomechatronics workshop. Scattered before them on the ground are two long, thin fiberglass rods called struts, assorted pieces of hardware, a tangle of black Velcro straps, and a pair of black knit wetsuit shorts. To the casual observer, it looks like nothing but a pile of junk, waiting to be hauled away with the morning’s trash. But to these young inventors, these are the ingredients of a new — and ambitious — challenge.”
“At times, the tour proceeds at an almost frenetic pace, and the reader can almost hear Mr. Moss leading the visitor through the glass-walled building with an infectious enthusiasm for the stories of its occupants and contents, much of which exists in the form of the models and prototypes for which the lab is famous,” wrote Henry Petroski of The Wall Street Journal
. “Moss takes us behind the scenes in the days before ‘hell week,’ as students work around the clock readying their presentations. For the students it is ‘demo or die’ time, and just about everything — housekeeping, laundry, personal care, sleep — takes a backseat to the project.”