EECS Seminar: Decoding Hidden Worlds – Wireless & Sensor Technologies for Oceans, Health and Robotics

McDonnell Douglas Engineering Auditorium
Fadel Adib, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Doherty Chair in Ocean Ultilization
Founding Director, Signal Kinetics Research Group
MIT Media Lab & Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Abstract: As humans, we crave to explore hidden worlds. Yet, today’s technologies remain far from allowing us to perceive most of the world we live in. Despite centuries of seaborne voyaging, more than 80% of our ocean has never been observed or explored. And, at any moment in time, each of us has very little insight into the biological world inside our own bodies. The challenge in perceiving hidden worlds extends beyond ourselves: Even the robots we build are limited in their visual perception of the world.

In this talk, I will describe new technologies that allow us to decode areas of the physical world that have so far been too remote or difficult to perceive. First, I will describe a new generation of underwater sensor networks that can sense, compute and communicate without requiring any batteries; our devices enable real-time and ultra-long-term monitoring of ocean conditions (temperature, pressure, coral reefs) with important applications to scientific exploration, climate monitoring and aquaculture (seafood production). Next, I will talk about new wireless technologies for sensing the human body, both from inside the body (via batteryless micro-implants) as well as from a distance (for contactless cardiovascular and stress monitoring), paving the way for novel diagnostic and treatment methods. Finally, I will highlight our work on extending robotic perception beyond line-of-sight, and how we designed new RF-visual primitives for robotics – including sensing, servoing, navigation and grasping – to enable new manipulation tasks that were not possible before.

The talk will cover how we have designed and built these technologies, and how we work with medical doctors, climatologists, oceanographers and industry practitioners to deploy them in the real world. I will also highlight the open problems and opportunities for these technologies, and how researchers and engineers can build on our open-source tools to help drive them to their full potential in addressing global challenges in climate, health and automation.

Bio: Fadel Adib is the Doherty Chair of Ocean Utilization at MIT and associate professor in the Media Lab and the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. He is also the founding director of the Signal Kinetics group, which researches wireless and sensor technologies for health, computing and climate. Adib was named by Technology Review as one of the world’s top 35 innovators under 35 and by Forbes as 30 under 30, and his research was recognized as one of the 50 ways MIT has transformed computer science. Adib’s commercialized technologies have been used to monitor thousands of patients with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and COVID-19, and he has had the honor to demo his work for President Obama at the White House. Adib is also the recipient of various awards, including the NSF CAREER Award (2019), the ONR Young Investigator Award (2019), the ONR Early Career Grant (2020), the Google Faculty Research Award (2017), and the Sloan Research Fellowship (2021), and his research has received Best Paper/Demo Awards at SIGCOMM, MobiCom, and CHI. Adib received his bachelor's from the American University of Beirut (2011) and his Ph.D. from MIT (2016), where his thesis won the Sprowls award for Best Doctoral Dissertation at MIT and the ACM SIGMOBILE Doctoral Dissertation Award.