Industry Affiliates Meeting Offers Peek at CSAIL Innovations

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Industry Affiliates Meeting Offers Peek at CSAIL Innovations
Photo: Jason Dorfman, CSAIL photographer
Students present their latest work during the IAP Annual Meeting poster session.

Members of CSAIL’s Industry Affiliates Program (IAP) gathered in the Stata Center recently for the program’s two-day long Annual Meeting showcasing the breadth and diversity of research underway at the lab.

The meeting kicked off with a historical look at the “Growth of Cryptography,” by keynote speaker Professor Ronald Rivest, one of the inventors of the RSA public key algorithm. Rivest provided an expansive history of the field, from Euclid’s algorithm and the Greek Scytale to his own work on the RSA public key algorithm and the need for further investigation in the field.

Rivest concluded his remarks by encouraging current students to pursue research in cryptography. “The field has blossomed since the 1980s,” said Rivest. “It’s a marvelously rich field. It’s like the Middle East; it’s at the cross roads for everything.”

Rivest’s talk served as an introduction to the meeting’s first session on Algorithms, Theory and Cryptography, which featured Professor Shafi Goldwasser presenting new research and solutions to security leaks, from equipping each public key with more secret keys to new techniques for ensuring the security of cloud computing.

Assistant Professor Jonathan Kelner discussed his groundbreaking approach to the problem of maximum flow, representing max flow as a matrix instead of a graph, a technique Kelner believes should spur additional research and development in the field for years to come.

Participants were exposed to a new program called SignalGuru that could decrease a vehicle’s fuel consumption with a smart phone application that predicts traffic signal cycles. The Green Light Optimal Speed Advisory (GLOSA) not only provides a significant reduction in fuel usage, according to PhD student Emmanouil Koukoumidis, but could also be helpful in locating open parking spots or finding out precisely when your bus will arrive.

Professor Hal Abelson gave a personal pitch for a simple and accessible interface he has developed with Google that allows the average computer user to create mobile phone applications. Abelson displayed applications built by users to warn individuals against messaging while driving and one created by a sixth grade class in South Carolina that introduces outsiders to the school.

“The thing we have to ask ourselves as we build out the mobile app infrastructure is are we giving ordinary people the same sense of empowerment, or is this another collection of consumer products that people can only passively look at and only the elite can work on,” said Abelson.

CSAIL researchers are breaking new ground in the fields of computer graphics and vision, as seen through presentations by Professor Bill Freeman and Associate Professor Fredo Durand. Freeman and Durand discussed their work using computation to improve, augment and examine photography, from removing blur in photographs to studying motion. Durand also described a joint project with MIT’s Department of Architecture in which he is trying to, “help them build tools to make buildings more stable.”

In the field of robotics, CSAIL researchers presented work on everything from new schemes for hierarchical robotic planning underway in Professors Tomas Lozano-Perez and Leslie Pack Kaelbling’s research group to underwater networks of robots that can collect information in real-time, a project of Professor Daniela Rus’ Distributed Robotics Lab. Associate Professor Missy Cummings described an effort to “get the pilot out of the airplane” by designing a system that could operate an unmanned aerial vehicle through a smart phone. In a test run Cummings described, a Boeing employee in Seattle operated the system remotely while controlling a flight over Cambridge.

The meeting concluded with a panel discussion on Project Angstrom, an effort underway at MIT to create technology that can handle multicore computing. Panelists discussed the biggest challenges facing the industry in the next decade, including energy efficiency and parallel programming, and then explained specifics of their research, in particular a heartbeat system that serves as a live monitor of how the system or application is performing.

Project leader Professor Anant Agarwal described the Angstrom Project as a success story, and not just from an academic perspective. “It is a fruitful collaboration between industry and university,” he said. For more information on IAP, visit

Abby Abazorius, CSAIL