Global Innovation


United States: MIT Media Lab Develops Intergenerational, Therapeutic Technologies

Research Areas: Health and Long-Term Care Innovations, Universal Design

Publish Date: September  01,  2007


When one thinks of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, images of cutting edge technologies and tech­niques that transform everyday activities come to mind. One such technology is called "Hyperscore," which empowers the user to create and compose music. The only requirements: a computer and an imagination. Hyperscore works by translating basic music theory concepts into audio and visual tools that are integrated into a software interface. The user opens separate windows and creates unique rhythms and sounds that can be tied into a single composition. Users can even upload their music to their cell phones as MIDI ringtones!

Originally designed as a music education tool for children, Hyperscore is now evolving into an intergenerational technology used by older people in clinical and thera­peutic environments. MIT Media Lab Professor Tod Machover and students spent 5 months at Tewksbury State Hospital, a Massa­chusetts hospital that provides care for adults with chronic medical and mental illnesses. Machover and his students held weekly workshops with the patients that culminated with an orchestra playing some of the patients' compositions in a live concert.

The results for the patients at Tewksbury were more dramatic: a significant improvement in well­ness across all participating patients. "Adaptive and creative technologies are quite literally providing the opportunity for patients to have a voice," writes Machover in a BT Technology Journal article.

Harmony Line, Inc. has since purchased Hyper­score and commercializes it products for consumers. Because of Hyperscore's demonstrated success, the Chinese Ministry of Education is now utilizing Hyperscore in a pilot program to provide music education to rural youth across the country.

MIT Media Lab was established in 1980 within MIT's School of Architecture and Planning by Professor Nicholas Negroponte and Jerome Wiesner, former MIT president and science advisor to President John F. Kennedy. The Lab's work has evolved from computing and electronic music to "human adaptability" of technology. A unique edu­cational component of the Lab is integrating the work of faculty, senior researchers, and gradu­ate students with 150 undergraduate students.

Full disclosure: AARP sponsors research at MIT Media Lab.