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Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 08/23/2011

MIT, Stanford students communicate through ‘wormhole’

Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. (Tony Avelar - BLOOMBERG)
If you’ve ever seen an episode of “Get Smart,” or perhaps the movie, you know about the “Cone of Silence” — a running gag where two plastic domes drop down over super spy Maxwell Smart and his colleague to ensure top secret communication. The gag, of course, was that it never worked.

The same cannot be said of a plexiglass dome created by MIT alum Kevin Brown.

The dome, in conjunction with a video screen, creates what has come to be known as the “wormhole,” reports the Boston Globe’s Karen Weintraub. The dome is positioned on the ceiling. It creates a whisper corner-effect by directing sound from a fixed point into speakers that broadcast it to another fixed point. It just so happens that the other fixed point is all the way across the country.

There is a dome and screen set-up in the Forbes Family Cafe on the Stanford and MIT campuses (Bert and Candace Forbes each donated funds for an identically named cafeteria on each campus). But, unlike a Skype or Google chat, the encounters are not scheduled or coordinated — at least that’s not the intention. Instead, students sit down at a table, as they otherwise would in a university dining hall, except the person sitting across from them would be across the country.

GigaOm’s Stacey Higgenbotham outlines five common elements that organizations need to create their own effective “wormhole” communications set-ups. They must always be on; use high quality audio and video; are placed in common areas; rely on low-latency connections, and are easy to use.

And, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the “Cone of Silence,” here’s what you’ve been missing:

(Boston Globe via GigaOm)

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By  |  06:00 AM ET, 08/23/2011

Categories:  Education, Invention, Research, Technology, Video, Morning Read

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