MIT Media Lab is turning 30.

Throughout Boston, there are plenty of university-affiliated incubators and accelerator programs. The MIT Media Lab isn’t one of them. But despite the organization’s focus on academic research, so many people’s projects there translate very well to startup-dom.

In fact, some notable names in Boston’s entrepreneurial scene are spin-offs from research done at this MIT fixture, and you probably didn’t even know it. Here’s a list of some local companies that started as scholarly pursuits at the Media Lab.


Facial recognition software is cool in and of itself, but this technology has been around for decades. Affectiva, though, has found a new application for this form of IT: Determining the emotional reactions of people as they’re in front of different visual stimuli.

With the company’s lead product, Affdex, it’s able to read people’s visual expressions and leverage algorithms to identify their emotions to media. This gives businesses priceless feedback on how their media is affecting audiences, allowing them to convey messages and reach people the way they intend to.

Ambient Devices

Most people out there take in information more effectively when they see it. Ambient Devices has picked up on this fact and it’s come up with several display devices that shows users the intel they want in a clear and concise format.

It offers display technologies for other companies – such as energy meters – as well as consumers. For example, you could get yourself an Ambient Orb, a glass ball that glows various colors to display different stats like traffic patterns, stock market trends and weather conditions.

BiOM, Inc.

Boston is known for its advancements in biotech, and BiOM is a perfect example as to why that’s the case. The company makes a propulsion-powered prosthetic ankle that mimics how lost muscles and tendons move. This means people using its products can have a more natural gate, which is better for balance, prevents overexertion, saves energy and decreases pain.

Bluefin Labs

There’s a reason why businesses drop millions on Super Bowl ads: TV is a crucial channel where companies can engage and entice consumers. Bluefin Labs is helping organizations perfect how they can best interact with television viewers by giving networks, advertisers and agencies TV analytics and data tools. Bluefin Labs was bought out by Twitter a couple of years ago, in case there needed to be some validation that they were onto something.

Soofa (formerly Changing Environments)

Now referred to as Soofa, Changing Environments has been trying to alter our concept of a modern city. The company recognizes that society is becoming increasingly intertwined with technology, so why shouldn’t cities accommodate our evolving, highly mobile lives? With Soofa’s benches, people can sit down, rest and give whatever devices they have on them a recharge.

The Echo Nest

Data can be applied to anything, including something as seemingly removed like music. Echo Nest leads the pack when it comes to decoding how music fan behavior and how listeners interact with different types of music content. Through The Echo Nest platform, which was acquired by Spotify, companies in the music industry can strategically create better music experiences. Ultimately, it aims to help fans come across and share music that they want to hear. 


In terms of health care, there’s one body part that ironically tends to be overlooked: Your eyes. Unless you’re really struggling to see, chances are you aren’t running to get your eyes checked too often. EyeNetra is trying to change that with its smartphone-powered device that’s making eye checks more mobile and affordable – two things we like to hear. With the company’s technology, doctors can help patients on the go with mobile clinics without compromising the accuracy of their tools.tests anywhere, anytime.


In recent years, 3-D printing has become all the rage. Not all of the 3-D printers on the market are created equal, as some are more sophisticated yet compact compared to others. If you look at Formlabs – which offers 3-D printers that can fit on your desk – you’ll understand. Even though its devices are smaller, the quality of the objects they print is still top-tier.

GenArts, Inc.

If you watch old school sci-fi films, you know how far we’ve come with regards to visual effects. But have you ever thought about the work that’s gone into developing that kind of technology? Just look at GenArts, a company that’s been working on sophisticated solutions to help filmmakers, broadcasters and even advertisers make impressive visual effects that will awe audiences. With its platform Saphire – now in its ninth version – GenArts has been allowing producers to eliminate those cringe-worthy effects of yore.


How do companies know what’s being said on the internet that might be relevant to them or their customers? Luminoso is trying to provide businesses the answer. Using its software, companies operating on the international level can tap into information that pertains to them – no matter which language its in – so they can improve customer experiences, build products that are more desirable and market them in a more appealing way to consumers.

Image on file.