Media Lab Mixer

Media Lab Mixer was a third device that I built as part of a project to encourage informal social interactions in a workplace environment while I was a research assistant in the Changing Places group at the MIT Media Lab. It was a complete departure from the Food Groups strategy, and attempted to use gamification techniques to spur increased and varied social interaction in the workplace.

I built four Media Lab Mixer devices, which were kept in the Media Lab's common atrium space. When people sat down near one, they would keep their ID cards on the top panel and earn points for hanging out there. Their faces would appear on Android tablets on the sides of the devices, and they would earn more points the longer they remained there, the more people they were there with, and the more “new” people they were there with. A leaderboard kept track of point totals, and winners were announced to the community each week.

I experimented with different game mechanics and incentive structures, including offering no rewards, financial rewards for the top point earners, and community rewards for the Lab as a whole reaching collective point goals. Interestingly, community-related incentives worked best, and Media Lab Mixer really began turning the common areas into lively gathering spaces.

I worked with a fellow researcher to install a stop-motion camera on the ceiling of the atrium that took thousands of pictures over the course of a month so that we could get quantitative data on how and when Media Lab Mixer affected the usage of the atrium space over the course of the experiment.

For this project, I fully designed and built the enclosures, internal electronics, and backend web servers needed to handle the main business logic and store state in a database.

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