Xiao Xiao '05

Xiao Xiao
Newman 2005
BS, Computer Science and Engineering, minor in Architecture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
MS, Media Arts and Sciences, MIT Media Lab
PhD, MIT Media Lab

At 2015's Prospect.3 biennial exhibition in New Orleans, one of the most talked-about installations allowed a user to play a duet on a grand piano with legendary New Orleans musicians such as John Cleary and Allen Toussaint. As the viewer sat facing the keys, a mirror image on the black “fall” of the piano projected the hands of the pianist, giving the effect of a ghostly duet. The installation, known as MirrorFugue, took on new poignancy when Toussaint died a short time later.

MirrorFugue was the work of Newman graduate Xiao Xiao ’05. Xiao recently earned her Ph.D. at the MIT Media Lab – the same institution where she received bachelor’s and master’s degrees – and has become a renowned expert in the field of human-computer interaction. She is a bracingly original thinker who synthesizes technology, neuroscience, music, and art in her work.

As Xiao explains, human-computer interaction is an exploration of how technology is integrated into the world around us and interacts with our physical selves. Many things we take for granted in technology need not be so, such as the ubiquity of flat screens, keyboards, and buttons as the mode of interaction.

“For millennia people have existed in the world by using their bodies,” Xiao said. “Computers have limited the really vast capability of the human body. My research is based in the notion that the physical world can be just as dynamic as the digital world.”

Currently Xiao is creating exhibits for the Historic New Orleans Collection for the tricentennial of the founding of New Orleans and illustrating and co-editing a set of essays on education by Marvin Minsky, to be published by the MIT Press.

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