• We create innovative learning experiences which elegantly integrate technology.
  • We develop meaningful, emotionally appealing projects and research prototypes and invent new media genres.
  • We design experiences.

The Comm Tech Lab is an association of four MSU faculty members: Darcy Drew Greene from the School of Journalism, Carrie Heeter from the Department of Telecommunication, Norm Lownds from the Department of Horticulture and Brian Winn from the Department of Telecommunication.

The Comm Tech Lab is jointly administered by the Dean of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences and the Vice Provost for Libraries, Computing and Technology. We have close associations with Virtual University Design and Technology group, the Michigan 4H Children's Garden, and the MIND Labs.

Comm Tech Lab people and projects are funded by contracts and grants.

Founded in 1984 to explore the potential of emerging communication technologies from a multidisciplinary perspective, the Comm Tech Lab has grown and evolved.

Initially CTL research focused on viewership impacts of new 36 channel cable television, and user reactions to VideoText systems, such as Knight-Ridder's Florida Viewtron trial and the French miniTel system. A 1987 communication experiment conducted by the CTL in cooperation with NASA, called SF2: Science Fiction*Science Fact, was the first live nationwide television broadcast to link public television with an online audience which participated via CompuServe.

In the late 1980s, the emergence of HyperCard on the Macintosh placed interactive multimedia authoring into the hands of artists and designers. Interactivity plus multimedia was (and is) a fascinating new frontier, and the CTL began its ongoing work on creating new genres of communication. Our earliest hypermedia project, Mission to Mars, was the first ever educational CD-ROM to be marketed by Intellimation. We had one hundred megabyte hard drive, and had to back up the 45 MB of content onto floppy disks. Mission to Mars used the metaphor and direct manipulation. The design also included a sound effect for every mouse click, totaling more than 200 different sounds. M.A. thesis research found that lots of different sounds was preferred by users to silent mouse clicks and to simple beep feedback.

Following Mission to Mars, Comm Tech Lab hypermedia design work switched to funded projects, such as PhotoFile for Dow Corning (a multimedia photographic database written in HyperCard using write-once videodisc) and the ClickOn MSU kiosk for Student Affairs and Services (written in Director 2.0 with videodisc). Concurrent with the funded hypermedia design work, the Comm Tech Lab conducted research on users of consumer VR games and developed several "mirror world" VR prototypes to study different aspects of the VR user experience. At CyberArts in Los Angeles in 1991, the Comm Tech Lab, working with Enter Corporation, developed, exhibited and studied "Undersea Adventure," the first simple mirror world VR experience that integrated 3D video with second person VR. One year later at SIGGRAPH in Chicago, "Once Upon a 3D Time" took user interface and genre development several steps further, again integrating 3D video. One year after that, the CTL constructed a 20 foot whale to exhibit "Hands on Hawaii" using our experimental Real Hands, Virtual Worlds interface.

Our funded hypermedia design work has been repeatedly recognized for quality and innovation. The lab's Personal Communicator CD-ROM, software that provides deaf children the tools to communicate via signing, speech synthesis, and digital video with their deaf and hearing peers, won the 1995 Discover Magazine Software Innovation of the Year Award. The lab became a full-fledge hypermedia research and design center, focussing on innovative designs that reveal and advance the potential of hypermedia for communication, education and experience . The AWARDS section of the Comm Tech Lab web site lists more than 50 of the awards and exhibits our projects have earned.

A variety of related research projects are underway, including technology-enhanced learning, the impact of gender on game design, learning from games, and mixed real and virtual realities. The lab continues to live on and to push the edge of communication technology.

The scope of Comm Tech Lab projects and the distinctive expertise of the gentle, creative, talented people that live and work here (well, we like each other a lot) are tributes to the magic that emerging technologies enable if one is open to their possibilities and motivated to work really hard.

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