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MIT staff blogger Matt McGann '00

Holiday Gifts, MIT Style by Matt McGann '00

Some unique products from MIT people.

For many, holiday time is the season of giving. While on this blog I more often talk about aspects of MIT that are freely offered to the world, I figured the holiday season would be as good a time as any to showcase some MIT-related products that are for sale. All of these are real products and can be ordered!

Clocky, the alarm clock that runs away

Invented by Media Lab student Gauri Nanda, Clocky received worldwide attention when it was introduced in 2005. It was featured on Good Morning America, the Today Show, Jay Leno, and even on Jeopardy.

What is Clocky? Nanda told the Boston Globe:

“I like my sleep,” said Nanda, a research associate at the MIT Media Laboratory in Cambridge. “I’ve been known to hit the snooze button for two hours, or even accidentally turn off the alarm.” So when she was asked to create a useful product for an industrial design course last fall, Nanda came up with “Clocky,” a runaway alarm clock that goads its bleary-eyed owners into leaving their beds. To turn Clocky off, you have to find it.

When the snooze alarm is pushed, Clocky rolls off the bedside table, tumbles to the floor and, thanks to shock-absorbing materials and rubber wheels, races away from the bed. It bumps into objects, repositions itself, and eventually comes to rest in a place far enough away from the bed that its owner will be forced to get up to find it when the alarm sounds a second time. A built-in microprocessor randomly programs the clock’s speed, distance, and routes, so that it won’t land in the same spot twice.

I know that I could use a Clocky many mornings =)

Transition, the flying car

The MIT Aero/Astro alumni-founded company Terrafugia, led by Carl Dietrich ’99, is building a flying car (or, more accurately, a “roadable aircraft”). And they’re taking orders for it now. Dietrich told the Lemelson-MIT Program:

“If you were taking a trip between 100 and 500 miles right now, chances are you’d probably drive unless you were going between two airport hubs,” Dietrich said. “Driving is fine, but it can take you half a day to reach your destination, and you are subject to unpredictable traffic. Commercial airlines are effective for trips over 500 miles, but… they don’t really attack the short-hop market very well. Personal Air Vehicles open up a lot of possibilities in freedom to get around. They offer convenience and flexibility to fit the traveler’s schedule.”

Dietrich’s Transition can be driven on any surface road and requires only a sport pilot’s license to fly. The SUV-sized vehicle can be stored in most home garages and has folding wings that enable it to operate both on the ground and in the air. It can carry two people with their bags up to 500 miles on a single tank of premium unleaded gasoline.

The Transition also offers modern safety features including an electronic center of gravity calculator (important for weight distribution in flying mode), GPS navigation unit, front and rear crumple zones, airbags, and patent-pending deformable aerodynamic bumpers. Since the driver’s visibility is impaired when the wings are folded up, a tiny camera system embedded in the vertical tails provides direct views of blind spots.

Check out this awesome animation of the Transition landing.

Bhutan: the world’s largest book

Michael Hawley of the Media Lab led a group of people from MIT and Friendly Planet on four expeditions to Bhutan, a small nation nestled between India and China in the Himalayas. After taking tens of thousands of photographs, their work was turned into the largest book ever published. It weighs in at a hefty 130 pounds and sizes up at 5 feet by 7 feet. You can even buy the book at! (For those not up for the big size, now there’s a “little big book” weighing in at just 5 pounds)

On the day of the book’s release, Hawley talked with the New York Times:

Beyond technology and philanthropy, the book project represents an expeditionary approach to education that Mr. Hawley says he wants to expand at M.I.T. The idea, he explains, is to take students to see new places, meet people from other cultures and use technology in the field. The Bhutan book is a byproduct of four such trips from 1988 to 2002, each involving a few M.I.T. students.

“What I’m pushing at M.I.T. is that the world is our lab, not just the campus,” Mr. Hawley said. “These kinds of trips can be life-altering for the people who take them. We learn from differences.”

Charles Darwin is Mr. Hawley’s favorite proof of the value of educational expeditions. At 22, Darwin seemed headed for the clergy after graduating from Cambridge University. But he balked, took a round-the-world voyage, and came back to present his theory of evolution in, “The Origin of Species.” Without the expeditionary adventure, Mr. Hawley said, “He would have ended up Pastor Charles Darwin, creationist.”

At the time of the publication of Bhutan, Hawley said the biggest book in the Library of Congress was Birds of America by John J. Audubon, coming in at a mere 2.5 feet by 3.5 feet.

Guitar Hero and Karaoke Revolution: Rock out with video games

Harmonix is a video game company started by MIT alumni, including CEO Alex Rigopulos ’92 (S.B. Music) and Eran Egozy ’95 (S.B. Electrical Engineering). Harmonix fuses music and engineering to make awesome music-based video games.

Harmonix’s first big hit was Karaoke Revolution, where the player sings karaoke with a special microphone. It’s a great party game. Harmonix has now developed five Karaoke Revolution games, including Karaoke Revolution Party and Karaoke Revolution Country.

And then came Guitar Hero, a tremendously popular game where players, using a specially designed “guitar,” play lead guitar on some rocking songs. It’s been popular with many real musicians as well as professional athletes, such as Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joel Zumaya, who sustained a Guitar Hero shoulder injury this season and missed three games in the American League Championship Series because of it.

Here are some Guitar Hero statistics from the project team:

Project size: 303,000 lines of code, 32,100 lines of script

Guitars broken during development: 97

Guitars set on fire during development: 1

A few months ago, MTV acquired Harmonix. I’ll be interested to see what their collaboration brings.

Those are just a few interesting products from MIT people…

46 responses to “Holiday Gifts, MIT Style”

  1. stephen says:

    Interesting Stuff. Now please accept my application smile

  2. Evan '10 says:

    Wow. I honestly had no idea that Harmonix had ties to MIT. That’s awesome.

  3. Harrison says:

    I would like to gently remind everyone of Harmonix’s other games Frequency and Amplitude. They’re some of the best games I’ve ever played.

  4. Ying Wei says:

    I love that flying car
    Maybe i shall work for a pilot’s license for that smile

  5. Adam S. says:

    Wow, I also had no clue that Harmonix was started at MIT. Lately I’ve been noticing all sorts of things that are connected to MIT.. Its amazing how enormous an impact a campus of only about .0002% of the world’s population can do for the world.

    One really awesome experience I’d like to share – I met Carl Dietrich, founder of Terrafugia, in person!

    I live in Oshkosh, WI. Yep, the home of Airventure, the largest aircraft convention in the entire world. I was already planning on attending Airventure when I found out that MIT club of Wisconsin was meeting there as well!

    It was great being able to talk to some MIT alumni, but here’s the best part of all: Carl Dietrich was there with his roadable aircraft! He gave a presentation to the roughly 15 of us that attended. I was even able to talk to him about it in person! Amazing experience!

    That’s part of why I want to attend MIT.. I’d be surrounded by amazing, interesting people doing amazing, interesting things every single day. In my opinion, there’s no better place in the world.

    Jasmine- I saw that quote too, and was going to say something, but I see you’ve got it covered!


    Blech, I can write informally now.. Why can’t I write like this for my application essays?

    Good luck, class of ’11! Change the world.. And for deferred applicants like me, good luck RA!

  6. Amadreza says:

    2 topics from topics above (Clocky, the alarm clock that runs away & Transition, the flying car) are cool.I wanna design a new vehicle that i can use some of it’s mechanisms in my new design.

  7. Amy says:

    Clocky is soooo cute!!!

  8. I seriously need a clocky! Today, I hit the snooze button for 6 hours before I woke up!

    Ankit Chandra
    Gaborone, Botswana

  9. ajay says:

    clocky , is an excellent concept … 3 cheers to

  10. Jillian says:

    I need a Clocky. Badly.

  11. Sarab says:

    Give me a clocky,…. I may just wake up for Bio class then….

  12. Snively '11 says:

    Guitar Hero is from an MIT alum?!? Ok, the entire world and everything I’m interested in seems to be tied to MIT! Insane!

    I was at a speech tournament last year and some kid was discussing Clocky and how weird/interesting it was. So, of course, when I got home I looked for it online and duh! it was a media lab creation. I got the e-mail last week that clocky was ready for pre-order, w00t!

  13. Carla says:

    hello Matt! i have a little problem, the report from my interview has not encore been processed, and when I filled the conducted interview form I filled in the date in the format day/month/year, which is the format that i am used to, instead of month/day/year, what should I do? should I resend the form with the correct date? thanks fou all your answers!

  14. Carla says:

    hi again matt. I have another problem… I took the SAT subject tests in July 2006, and at the site of college board they say they are already sent, however in my application tracking it says that you have not yet received the scores, what should I do?

  15. Guyomar says:

    I want Clocky. I need it! Lol smile What a great idea.

  16. Shashank says:

    Accept me! Accept me! Accept me! Accept me!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. Ina says:

    Now I know what I want for next Christmas… although my parents will probably be bankrupt after paying the taxes to ship “Bhutan” all the way to Romania (and it’s difficult to hide it under the Christmas tree).

  18. Anonymous says:

    definitely need a clocky

    ina — where in romania?

  19. Basant says:

    Gr8 job Carl Dietrich and the Terrfugia team!

  20. Jasmine says:

    “What I’m pushing at M.I.T. is that the world is our lab, not just the campus”

    And that’s why I want to go to MIT.
    Go class of 2011!

  21. Raju says:

    I need a Clocky as well.. Great idea and a great product

  22. Mollie says:

    Hey, Adam and his friend (and our groomsman) Carl ’07 are going to be working for Terrafugia this IAP! So don’t forget that not only are these companies founded by MIT alums, but in many cases, current MIT students are invited to work there too.

  23. alex says:

    where can i get a clocky?
    i’ve been immune to alarm clocks since 12th grade

  24. Ina says:

    In Drobeta Turnu Severin, southern Romania, Europe.

  25. bhushan says:

    can someone bring a clocky for me coz i sleep with 4-5clocks around me but no use

  26. Junghyun says:

    Awesome! Happy New Year.

  27. Jahnabi says:

    But of course, you’re MIT! All of them are simply ingenious!

  28. Anonymous says:

    Quirky humour, funky inventions – is there anything about MIT that’s not to like?!

  29. Reg says:

    I need a clocky!! but… what happens if you can’t hear it? D:

  30. Michael says:

    Bhutan: Big Book!

    I want a book that big! It’d be the first book that I didn’t lose for months at a time. And it’d be the only book that I could read from 10 feet away (with or without glasses)! And best of all, it’s a picturebook. I always said Dr. Suess was too hard; this book is for me! Now I just need to borrow $14,995 from someone. Or better yet, I’ll take an amazon gift card of that magnitude. Anyone?

    As for clocky, I was just going to put the alarm on my computer, and have it ask me a math problem in the morning.
    If I had to find my alarm, I’d never get it to turn off; finding stuff is nearly impossible for me.

    why is no one else using ?

  31. Michael says:

    hmmm… I meant to say, “why is no one else using html?” (with the less than and greater than signs surrounding it to make it a markup tag). It worked on the preview, but apparently not on my post

  32. Suman says:

    oh wow!! MIT rocks!
    I want to get in so badly now!
    [as for that clock, i need it!!! haha]

  33. Guyomar says:

    Isn’t that strange Michael?

    There it was … you may use HTML tags for style … and I didn’t even notice it until you pointed out that no one was using HTML…

    Silly me.

  34. ayden says:

    Wow! Clocky sounds like an excellent concept – I want one!

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  36. Anonymous says:

    very cool stuff!
    Even in Germany [bold] Clocky [bold] and Terrafugi were mentioned in some News mags

  37. Hopeful says:

    I need a clocky too! Looks like the demands for it are high though……. where can we all order one?:)

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  43. The “Clocky” invention is amazing. That is exactly what I need every morning…..

  44. trolxblo says:

    I’m 65 years old retiree. Not too old for man wink but grandchildren remind every day about my ages smile)
    45 years-long duty left me several health-presents. You don’t want to hear all this medical stuff, but believe – sometimes i’m almost ready to use my 9mm M9 Beretta, if you know what i mean wink
    To reduce pain, I’m trying several options now:
    Pain relief carisoprodol 350 –
    hydrochloryde hcl ultram 180-

    Stop me if you know why i should use these medications.
    I have two packs of each (bought them without prescription, and my doctor is a bustard;)).
    Just post here, or send me a letter if you have what to say. Finally it is nothing for ya, but i just need some advice. Please..