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MIT Media Lab Creates Center for Future Storytelling

Cambridge, MA, November 19, 2008 — The MIT Media Laboratory announced the creation of the Center for Future Storytelling, made possible through a seven-year, $25-million commitment from Plymouth Rock Studios, a major motion picture and television studio, which will open in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 2010.

With the establishment of this Center — whose research program begins immediately — the Media Lab and Plymouth Rock Studios will collaborate to revolutionize how we tell our stories, from major motion pictures to peer-to-peer multimedia sharing. By applying leading-edge technologies to make stories more interactive, improvisational, and social, researchers will seek to transform audiences into active participants in the storytelling process, bridging the real and virtual worlds, and allowing everyone to make their own unique stories with user-generated content on the Web. Center research will also focus on ways to revolutionize imaging and display technologies, including developing next-generation cameras and programmable studios, making movie production more versatile and economic.

“Storytelling is at the very root of what makes us uniquely human,” said Frank Moss, Media Lab director and holder of the Jerome Wiesner Professorship of Media Arts and Sciences. “It is how we share our experiences, learn from our past, and imagine our future. But how we tell our stories depends on another uniquely human characteristic — our ability to invent and harness technology. From the printing press to the Internet, technology has given people new ways to tell their stories, allowing them to reach new levels of creativity and personal fulfillment. The shared vision of the MIT Media Lab and Plymouth Rock Studios allows us to take the next quantum leap in storytelling, empowering ordinary people to connect in extraordinary ways.”

“This is a great opportunity to draw on the exceptional intelligence and innovation for which the Media Lab is known worldwide,” said David Kirkpatrick, chairman and executive managing officer of Plymouth Rock Studios and former president of Paramount’s Motion Picture Group. “Plymouth Rock Studios was conceived as a source for innovation and as a proving ground for new storytelling technologies. This collaboration will transform the movie-making model, and erase some of the technology barriers that constrain the narrative form.”

The Center for Future Storytelling will be co-directed by three Media Lab principal investigators: V. Michael Bove, Jr., an expert in object-based media and interactive television; LG Associate Professor Cynthia Breazeal, a leader in the field of personal robots and human-robot interaction; and Associate Professor Ramesh Raskar, a pioneer in the development of new imaging, display, and performance-capture technologies.

Research will range from on-set motion capture to accurately and unobtrusively merge human performers and digital character models; to next-generation synthetic performer technologies, such as richly interactive, highly expressive robotic or animated characters; to cameras that will spawn entirely new visual art forms; to morphable movie studios, where one studio can be turned into many through advanced visual imaging techniques; to holographic TV. It will draw on technologies pioneered at the Media Lab, such as digital systems that understand people at an emotional level, or cameras capable of capturing the intent of the storyteller.

“We see this as an experiment in collaborative education, but also as a bold adventure in business innovation that could have significance well beyond the motion picture industry,” said Moss.

About the MIT Media Lab

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 300 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. For more information on the Media Lab:


About Plymouth Rock Studios

Plymouth Rock Studios is a $500-million film and television studio complex in Plymouth, Massachusetts, slated to open in 2010 as the world’s first LEED-certified, environmentally friendly studio complex. Its development team is led by two former Paramount executives: David Kirkpatrick, who was president of the Motion Picture Group, and Earl Lestz, who was the president of the Studio Group for over 20 years. The studio will have 14 soundstages and a 10-acre back lot, plus production offices, post-production facilities, a theater, hotel, and an amenity village. The project is projected to create over 2,000 high-income jobs and provide the infrastructure for the sustained growth of the entertainment industry in New England. For more information on Plymouth Rock Studios: