An MIT Alumni Association Publication

Hub-Grown Projects Go Head-to-Head

  • Julie Fox
  • Slice of MIT

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With so many innovations coming out of the Greater Boston area, HUBweek is holding HUB Madness for the second year—a bracket-style, friendly competition to celebrate exciting local projects and, ultimately, to determine what online voters are most impressed with.

Of the 32 projects that opened for votes on March 14, the following 18 have an MIT connection. And with the final two of five rounds still to go, Wearable Sensors by Empatica, Inc. and AI Portraits by MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab remain in the running. The victor will be announced after voting closes on April 17.

121 Seaport (CBT)

With its ever-changing landscape, Boston’s Seaport District has a noteworthy newcomer in the form of 121 Seaport (pictured above)—a 17-story, 440,000-square-foot office building. The innovative new building—celebrated for its low consumption of energy and materials, highly-efficient design, and thoughtful orientation—was designed by CBT, cofounded by MIT alumnus Richard Bertman ’60.

3D-Printed Gastric Resident Electronics (MIT, Draper, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital)

A gastric resident electronic (GRE) system is an ingestible capsule that can be controlled using Bluetooth wireless technology. The GRE, designed by researchers at MIT, Draper, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, can be customized to deliver drugs based on instructions from a smartphone.

AI Portraits (MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab)

AI Portraits is a web-based research project using Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) to create a “celebrity” version of the user’s face.

AlterEgo (MIT Media Lab)

A project within the Fluid Interfaces group in the Media Lab, AlterEgo is a noninvasive, wearable, peripheral neural interface that allows humans to converse in natural language with machines and other people—without any voice or externally observable movements, simply by articulating words internally. 

BeeMe (MIT Media Lab)

BeeMe is a unique performance that took place on Halloween 2018, when more than 1,000 people participated in a sci-fi live online game featuring a battle between collective and artificial intelligence. The game used real-time collective intelligence to allow internet users to collectively control, in the moment, two human avatars, “agents” who operated in the physical space of the MIT campus.

Embr Wave (Embr Labs)

Adjusting your temperature could look radically different with Embr Wave, a wearable device that uses cutting-edge thermoelectrics and precisely engineered algorithms to produce maximally effective temperature waves. The wrist band is produced by Embr Labs, started by Mike Gibson ’12, PhD ’16, David Cohen-Tanugi SM ’12, PhD ’15, and postdoc Matt Smith PhD ’12. Read more on Slice of MIT.

Exploring the Hidden Music (PhenomenArts, Inc.) 

Trained as a architect and jazz musician, Christopher Janney SM '78 has been combining these two disciplines for more than 30 years. On June 8, 2018, at Boston University's Dance Theater, Janney continued his explorations with "Physical Music," a performance, Exploring the Hidden Music, that mixed technology and music, and that featured some of Greater Boston's most innovative musicians. Read more on Slice of MIT

[G]Code House (Sasaki Associates)

[G]Code House is a new tech startup in Dudley Square in Roxbury that connects young women of color, ages 18–25, to educational and employment opportunities in the technology sector. The [G]Code House design is the brain child of Sasaki Associates, whose CEO is James Miner ’97.

Local Fabric (Sosolimited)

Local Fabric is a digital artwork display that weaves crowd-sourced photography of Boston’s 22 neighborhoods. Commissioned for the newly redesigned lobby at 100 Federal Street, the display was designed by Sosolimited, an art and technology studio established at the MIT Media Lab, founded by Justin Manor ’00, SM ’03, John Rothenberg ’02, SM ’07, and Eric Gunther ’00, MEng ’02. Read more on Slice of MIT.

Modulate Voice Skins (Modulate)

Modulate builds tools to allow anyone to digitally customize their voice as they speak online. Using voice skins, users can sound like a chosen character, anonymize themselves, or even design a new, never-before-heard voice for their online persona. The company was cofounded by CEO Mike Pappas ’14 and CTO Carter Huffman ’14.

Motif Ingredients (Ginkgo Bioworks)

Motif makes ingredients for the next generation of plant-based and healthy foods, using fermentation to brew vital proteins and nutrients. The company is powered by the technology of Ginkgo Bioworks, a synthetic-biology startup cofounded by Jason Kelly ’03, PhD ’08, Reshma Shetty PhD ’08, Barry Canton PhD ’08, Austin Che SM ’04, PhD ’08, and former professor and famed MIT synthetic biologist Tom Knight ’69, SM ’79, PhD ’83. Read more on Slice of MIT.

Resurrecting the Sublime (Ginkgo Bioworks)

An immersive sensory installation allows us to smell extinct flowers, lost due to colonial activity. Resurrecting the Sublime is an ongoing collaboration between artist Dr. Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, smell researcher and artist Sissel Tolaas, and an interdisciplinary team of researchers and engineers from Ginkgo Bioworks, the MIT-alum-founded biotech company that features twice on this list (see above).

Solid (inrupt)

Led by MIT professor Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, Solid aims to radically change the way web applications work today, resulting in true data ownership as well as improved privacy.

Smart Home Collaboration (iRobot, Google)

Google and iRobot teamed up in 2018 to make your smart home even smarter, integrating the iRobot Roomba i7+ vacuum’s ability to remember room layouts with the functionality of the Google Assistant. iRobot was founded by MIT professor and former CSAIL director Rodney Brooks, Colin Angle ’89, SM ’91, and Helen Greiner ’89, SM ’90. Read more on Slice of MIT.

Spider’s Canvas/Arachnodrone

Spider’s Canvas/Arachnodrone, currently in residence at MIT.nano, is a multisensory installation and performance based on the complex webs of the South American Cyrtophora citricola spider. The piece was cocreated by Music and Theater Arts faculty members Christine Southworth ’02, Evan Ziporyn, and Ian Hattwick, along with civil and environmental engineering PhD candidate Isabelle Su MEng ’15, mentored by the head of her department, Markus Buehler. Read more on Slice of MIT.


The brainchild of four MIT athletes, Spyce is a first-of-its-kind restaurant serving up delicious and affordable bowl-style meals, all cooked in a fully robotic kitchen. Cofounders Kale Rogers ’16, Braden Knight ’16, Luke Schlueter ’16, and Michael Farid ’14, SM ’16 opened their storefront in Downtown Crossing in May 2018. Read more on Slice of MIT.

TESS Mission

Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is an MIT-led NASA mission to spend two years conducting an all-sky survey in search of planets outside our solar system. Launched in April 2018, TESS has the potential to discover thousands of new exoplanets orbiting around nearby stars—it’s already found three. Read more at MIT Spectrum.

Wearable Sensors to Forecast Changing from Healthy to Sick (Empatica, Inc.)

Empatica’s newly announced smart watch—based on the technology of its FDA-cleared device for people with epilepsy—can alert users when they are developing a serious respiratory infection, before any symptoms appear. The medical technology startup was cofounded with Professor Rosalind W. Picard SM ’86, ScD ’91, founder and director of the Affective Computing research group at the MIT Media Lab.


See all the participating projects and cast your vote in the final four.

Top image: Skanska. 

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