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Emerging Worlds


Emerging Worlds

Our Next Event at the MIT Media Lab is Monday, April 11, 2016

About the Event:

You will have the opportunity to:

  • Roll up your sleeves with other participants as the MIT Media Lab team leads an innovation exercise to “spot” and “probe” on exciting Emerging Worlds challenges.
  • Discuss the Emerging Worlds platform and innovations and learn how to scale your ideas and contribute your problem statements.
  • Bring colleagues from your organization interested in the Emerging Worlds innovations and sandboxes to share the experience.

Read the event website HERE

For information on OUR Most recent EVENT IN NASHIK, INDIA JANUARY 23-29 Click HERE


The Emerging Worlds Initiative

The Emerging Worlds initiative is a unique, bottom-up innovation platform designed for addressing big challenges worldwide. Emerging worlds – cities, states, or regions – present great opportunities to test and deploy ideas. We convene people with diverse interests, skills and backgrounds – young engineers, business people and designers – to collaborate openly with government officials, business leaders and academics, as well as with Media Lab researchers. Together, we look for creative solutions to pressing local challenges that can be solved with new technology, including machine learning, Internet of Things, Big Data and mobile devices. We understand the culture of deployment. Join us to get in on the action!

Celebrating Success in Nashik, October 2015

On October 26th and 27th, 2015, we hosted a fantastic event at the MIT Media Lab about the Emerging Worlds initiative! Thank you for those who attended and made it memorable and meaningful.

Elected officials, government leaders, business executives, innovators and entrepreneurs joined us from Nashik, India to share their experience with the Kumbh Mela. With a lot of planning, coordination and hard work, along with innovative development, the festival of 30 million people went without a hitch. The city of Nashik set a high bar for future pop-up cities.

In this pop-up city, over the course of a year or so, innovators developed solutions that made a difference. Solutions ranged from crowd management to food logistics, pop-up housing and 3D mapping. Other cities where we are fostering innovation include Mumbai and Hyderabad, India; Bratislava, Slovakia; Guadalajara, Mexico; and São Paulo, Brazil. In each location, innovations are created by citizens for citizens, in the context of the local culture. It is very empowering to all involved!

Watch Ramesh Raskar present on Emerging Worlds at the MIT Media Lab


Social and economic impact on A large scale

Emerging Worlds is a Special Interest Group (SIG) focused on emerging opportunities for citizens in resource-limited settings. It is a co-innovation initiative to build platforms to solve pressing challenges in areas such as health, education, financial inclusion, food and agriculture, housing, transportation, and local business.

Emerging Worlds are vibrant ecosystems where we roll out new and innovative citizen-based technologies to create a framework to support wide-ranging needs of urban populations. The innovation efforts all utilize the same methodology, host camps or "buildathons", and maintain a year-round relationship with MIT mentors and local innovators. Each location is also a hub of the area’s innovation ecosystem – bringing together innovators and various stakeholders from government, industry, and academia.


Watch selected talks from the October 27 Emerging Worlds Event including: Media Lab Director, Joi Ito, TCS CEO, N Chandra, and government officials from Nashik, India


Early stage innovation: “spot” and “probe”

The innovation efforts specialize in early stage innovation – through prototyping. The “spot” phase generates ideas for solutions, which will satisfy a significant need. The “probe” phase creates a working prototype to test the technical and business feasibility of the solution. When innovators are ready to grow and scale their solutions, they can go to market right away, or pivot to another solution. Every innovator participant continues to have access to fellow innovators and others in the ecosystem.



The Emerging Worlds platform is creating a model for “smart citizens” that is being tested in India, so that it can be deployed in other non-metro cities around the globe that are home to a significant portion of the world’s population experiencing similar challenges. From an Open Systems Interconnection model perspective, the team is facilitating the connection between the data and physical layers, thus enabling interoperability, communication and functionality. This is a highly collaborative project, involving researchers from multiple disciplines such as public health and safety, biology, computer science, statistics, mathematics, fabrication, hardware and software simulation and modeling.


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The power of the platform

The power of the platform


We have tested and proven the platform model in Nashik, India, the site of the 2015 Kumbh Mela. The Kumbh Mela pilgrimage presented an opportunity to access thousands of people for research and market testing, and to develop tools to empower “smart citizens.” At the 2015 Kumbh Mela in Nashik, the team had a Health Pavilion. This station deployed portable instruments to test vital health statistics and oral and pulmonary diseases of visitors, and it mapped datasets to use predictive analytics and machine learning technologies to identify potential warning signs and diseases that have been undetected.



Nashik, India is an example of how the team has enabled the formation of a vibrant entrepreneurship ecosystem, successfully bringing together national and international academic research institutions such as IIT (Indian Institute of Technology), government agencies, corporations, biotech and diagnostic companies, policy makers and innovators in a vibrant setting. Examples of innovations are: epidemic tracking, medical care localization, crowd steering, 3D mapping, and pop-up housing. Development of the innovation ecosystem is empowering citizens and helping to position Nashik as a smart city.

 Team Ashioto shows their foot map which tracks crowds by footstep.  Kumbhathon team and mentors join the walk to be counted.

Team Ashioto shows their foot map which tracks crowds by footstep.  Kumbhathon team and mentors join the walk to be counted.


Two efforts – in Mumbai and Hyderabad, India – are developing and growing health-focused innovation centers. In Mumbai, the Welingkar Institute of Management Development & Research (WeSchool) hosts a visual health diagnostic-focused innovation center. Innovators use the space and close guidance and mentorship with researchers and others to develop prototypes for solutions including systems for: a real-time emotion detection system, differential diagnosis of skin conditions, detection of infections of the middle ear, diagnosis of cardiovascular diseases, monitoring of obstructive sleep apnea, ad detection of the presence of carie-causing bacteria in saliva. 

In Hyderabad, the L V Prasad Eye Institute is sponsoring innovations that emphasize eye health. Medical professionals from major health centers in India and the US -- including L V Prasad and Mass General Hospital in Boston – provide mentorship and guidance to ensure that the innovations are relevant and effective. Innovations being created in Hyderabad include systems for measuring peripheral vision in babies, training a lazy eye, creating an augmented reality for the visually impaired, and a prosthetic eye that fits well.



Innovation efforts are being launched in Slovakia, Mexico and Brazil.  Each location will host a buildathon camp and maintain a year-round relationship with mentors and local innovators. 


The effort in Guadalajara (Mexico) is an open co-innovation platform focused on spotting and probing healthcare innovations. This means identifying needs and solutions, and creating prototypes and testing them technically and in the market. The center in Guadalajara is led by Eduardo Bayro-Corrochano, Professor at Cinvestav in Guadalajara, Mexico. The innovation ecosystem includes bright innovators, government officials, educators, academic researchers and corporations.


The effort in São Paulo (Brazil) is hosted by Researcher & PhD Daniel Makoto Tokunaga at the Escola Politécnica da USP São Bernardo do Campo, São Paulo. The team there has had a relationship for over eight years with the Media Lab’s Camera Culture Group, including multiple exchange visits and visiting scientists from the University of São Paulo. The center is also supported by Interlab, a research group manufacturing biochemistry products for healthcare. The São Paulo team works with interactive technologies, including Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and games; as well as innovation for engineering, education, heath and entertainment.


The effort in Bratislava (Slovakia) kicked off with a meeting with Ramesh Raskar in Slovakia in June of 2015. At the meeting, Slovak leaders from many segments, including the government, local enterprises, venture capital companies, universities and startup incubators participated. Three influential leaders enabled this center to flourish quickly: Milan Ftáčnik, former Slovak Minister of Education, former Mayor of Bratislava, now a faculty member at Comenius University in Bratislava; Tomas Kovacovsky, CTO of startup Photoneo; and Dr. Ramesh Raskar, Head of the Camera Culture Group at the MIT Media Lab. Together, we are creating a growing ecosystem of individuals and companies helping each other on ambitious projects to motivate the next generation.


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Each year in January we host an innovation event. This is an opportunity for people involved in one of the locations to network and learn from others, as well as to interact with researchers and other experts. We are fostering innovation efforts in regions including: Eastern Europe (Bratislava, Slovakia), Latin America (Guadalajara, Mexico and São Paulo, Brazil), and close to home in Lowell, Massachusetts.

Each of these locations has a unique emphasis, based on the needs of the area and the skills and interests of the local stakeholders. All of the existing and new hubs will be gateways to the energy and creativity of innovators who will create solutions to satisfy significant social needs in their locations, and perhaps elsewhere as well. The next generation of innovators is being cultivated, and the seeds of economic development and personal empowerment have being planted – through the innovators themselves, their solutions, and the people they touch.

Learn more about our innovation efforts here:

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Join Us!

Join Us!

If you are an entrepreneur, innovator, academic researcher, educator, corporate executive, government official or just curious, we’d love to hear from you! There are opportunities to join teams, mentor, sponsor, conduct research, or just observe. It’s easy to get caught up in the energy and enthusiasm and to get involved.