Research Themes

Connecting graduate education to innovative interdisciplinary research in creative industries.

IDeATe facilitates the creation of interdisciplinary technology-arts research teams and related projects that synergize with a large number of technology-arts based research projects at CMU. Many of the IDeATe graduate collaborative studios have research components to them and some are realized in partnership with industry or community organizations.  Some example of IDEATE research projects that are also linked to collaborative studios are given below. 

Expanded Theater


As the boundaries between theater, art, entertainment and everyday life continue to expand through engagement with new technologies, it is critical that emerging artists and technologists be provided with the tools, language, and vision to thrive in the new millennium. Expanded Theater will reanimate classical modes of performance with media, networks, robotics, locative applications, mobile systems.

Considering theater as an ancient technology of mass participation and social cohesion, this fusion studio explores how emerging technologies can expand upon the basic theatrical relationships in new and culturally relevant ways. Collaboration and integration of design, media and storytelling is critical to this approach. Experimentation with new forms can reanimate the basic values of theater; the essential nature of a live event, the possibility of visionary spectacle, and the creation of meaning in dialogue with an audience.

By providing a true laboratory environment with access to advanced computational, fabrication and production resources, Expanded Theater brings students, faculty and researchers from across diverse disciplines into collaborative research and production that explore how technology and narrative intersect in the cultural sphere. Expanded Theater pushes projects from proof of concept into real-world applications that generate meaning and impact culture.

Expanded Theater is an opportunity to explore avenues outside of traditional theatrical production modes and beyond each student's individual discipline. The curriculum combines resources from Carnegie Mellon's School of Art and School of Drama, Integrative Design, Arts, and Technology (IDeATe) network, the Emerging Media Program (EM2), Computer Science, the Robotics Institute, and their collaborators across the university in a new configuration. It is supported by funding from Carnegie Mellon trustees Ed Frank and Jeanne Cunicelli. Expanded Theater will explore domains ranging from site specific and networked-based performance and interventionist practices, to pervasive social media technologies and their influence on interpersonal communication. The goal is to investigate contemporary languages that allow authors, actors and technologists to collaborate in ways that push beyond our present understanding of theatrical production and reception. 

Research Team

Ali MomeniLarry SheaGarth ZeglinMarianne Weems

Human-Machine Virtuosity


This project, and its associated studio, explores the integration of human fabrication skills and digital manufacturing systems. Rapid prototyping and robotic fabrication are changing the equilibrium of how we will design and make everything.  These new processes allow a more intimate relationship between design and manufacture by enabling small-scale production with a high degree of customization. For this to be successful, the precision of digital manufacturing systems must work together with human physical knowledge. This enables hybrid design methodologies in which ideas move from physical manipulation to digital abstraction and back to capture the most creative aspects of each domain.

Research Team

Josh BardMadeline GannonVarvara ToulkeridouRamesh KrishnamurtiSid SrinivasaGarth Zeglin

Learning Media Design Center at CMU


The Learning Media Design Center (LMDC) focuses on learning media with measurable real-world impact; a focus that combines the strengths of CMU and the Pittsburgh media and learning community.  The LMDC is a joint effort of IDeATe, HCII, Robotics, ETC and the Simon Initiative and has received seed funding for its creation from the Grable and Benedum Foundations.  The LMDC aims to increase connectivity between the CMU media and learning activities and the Pittsburgh media and learning community, The LMDC aims to leverage the activities and knowledge of internal and external partners to identify assessment methodologies and related design principles that can facilitate the connection of K-12 innovative mediated learning systems to targeted learning outcomes and the eventual scaling of such learning. 

Research Team

Kenneth KoedingerJohn ZimmermanDror YaronJessica TrybusGeorge Kantor, LMDC Director (TBD)

Responsive Mobile Environments


An interdisciplinary CMU team, with support from Intel and Enlighted, is working to identify and implement principles for the design of Responsive Environments that facilitate higher quality of experience, heighten creativity and support mobility of process and knowledge in integrative design contexts. This university-wide initiative involves faculty from across the School of Design, School of Architecture, Tepper School of Business, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Computer Science Department, the Human-Computer Interaction Institute and the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation.

To explore new forms of intelligent learning spaces, living laboratories across ECE, School of Design and IDeATe have been established as a means to understand confluence of human, space, technology and design thinking in studio spaces. Importantly, this exploration encompasses many complimentary forms of 'design' (industrial design, tech-arts, engineering, product innovation, media, etc.) and many kinds of studios, from traditional design studios to highly flexible, modular and multipurpose learning spaces. By studying the diversity of integrative design contexts and spaces on CMU's campus, the goal is to develop new means and modes of mediation that can enhance the collaborative learning and design process through intelligent spaces.

We envision new learning spaces which can sense human action (movement, occupancy levels) and environmental conditions (temperature, noise, power use) and in real spaces and integrate with the mobile devices and tools we commonly use. With real-time analysis of multimodal sensors, these systems can adapt to better support users and be flexible to suit multiple parallel needs by adjusting lighting, introducing sound, providing ambient notification, turning on outlets, and more. Higher-level feedback can also be provided to users of the space based on patterns and trends observed in the data. Resulting data summaries can then assist individuals, groups and instructors in reflecting on their collaborative processes, highlight opportunities for studio improvements and space reorganization to facilities managers, or create new opportunities for awareness, coordination and planning around prospective use of campus spaces and resources.  

Importantly, in this work, we take a broad multidisciplinary perspective amd coupling technological advancement to the human experience in order to: 

a) understand space and social use on campus (through design research, human-centered investigation, and ethnographic exploration); 

b) develop and deploy technologies to sense and respond to human action and environmental change; and

c) test human-scale and campus-scale interventions for new learning scenarios, enhanced feedback and reflexivity, serendipitous support, and impact on collaboration.

The outcomes of the research from these labs will be used to develop a) curriculum and training mechanisms to prepare students for participation in integrative design of responsive environment and b) methods and prototypes of next generation responsive, mobile environments with special focus on mediated, collaborative learning environments. These will be evaluated through a multimodal battery of tools ranging from course assessment, student feedback, outcome documentation, skill and competency verification, in-situ observation, sensor data fusion and synthesis, as well as space, system and equipment usage within relevant studio environments. 

Initially, IDeATe@Hunt will serve as a test-bed for new mediated, collaborative learning environments, but will inform the preparation of future smart studios on CMU's campus for enhances collaboration,

innovation and creativity. In collaboration with the Eberly Center, learnings from the research will inform the development of two new TEL (technology enhanced learning) smart collaborative studios to be

installed in CMU's new Tepper Quad and to support the new Innovation and Entrepreneurship minor.

Research Team

Daragh ByrneWayne ChungAnne Mundell, Aisling Kelliher, Anthony RoweMatthew SanfilippoDan SiewiorekReid SimmonsJohn Zimmerman, Marsha Lovett, Chad Hershock, Judy Brooks 

Participatory Culture Incubator


Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Pittsburgh are three key Pittsburgh organizations with significant influence on the evolving culture of the city and are all within Oakland. The concepts of participatory culture and outward-looking institutions are growing in importance, both in terms of cultural practice as well as economic development. These concepts rely on complex connectivity (rather than isolation), diversity (rather than homogeneity), networked bottom up activities of multiple scales (rather than top down processes or monumental structures), integration of active participation with consumption (rather than primarily passive consumption), and iterative design (rather than deterministic, pre-imposed structures). The development of a ground-breaking participatory culture incubator in Oakland can help the evolution of these three institutions, contribute to the development of Oakland as a hub for new creative industries and participatory culture, and spread its influence to other related existing or planned hubs (Strip District, Almono, North Shore and more).

Research Team

Carnegie Mellon University: Omer Akin, Eric Anderson, Daragh Byrne, Bernadine Dias, Kelly Delaney, John Folan, Kirstin Hughes, Anne Mundell, Richard Pell, Aaron Steinfeld, Jesse Stiles, Ralph Vituccio, Dror Yaron, Thanassis Rickakis

Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History: Dan Byers, Catherine Evans, Laurie Giarratani, Jeffrey Inscho, Matt Lamanna, Ed Motznik, Maureen Rolla, Ray Ryan, Tony Young

University of Pittsburgh: Kathy Blee, Mark Redfern, Delanie Jenkins, Maggie McDonald, David Ruppersberger, Terry Smith

Reality Computing


An interdisciplinary team at CMU (spanning Computer Science and Robotics, Architecture and Computational Design and Civil Engineering) is partnering with Autodesk to advance research and education in reality computing.  The partnership is focusing on new tools and methodologies for helping groups of experts solve hard space planning and space design problems.  The group will combine innovative space scanning and sensing techniques with cutting edge data analysis, modeling and display techniques to capture and represent the “reality” of a space and its current and/or desired activities.   The resulting tools and methodologies will allow for the augmented reality exploration of the actual physical space/problem under consideration.  The partnership will also develop two studio based interdisciplinary courses for advanced undergraduate and graduate students. One course will focus on Reality Computing, and the other on Media for Urban Systems.  Many of the research and development activities of this partnership will also form components of the courses. The courses will start in the 2015-16 year.

Research Team

Burcu Akinci, Jeremy Ficca, John Folan, Daniel Huber, Pyry Matikainen, Yaser Sheikh, Siddhartha Srinivasa