Andrew Lippman: Viral Communications


Lippman Standing Picture

Andrew Lippman has spent his entire learning and teaching career at MIT. He started as an undergraduate, was the founding Associate Director of the MIT Media Lab from 1983 to 2001, and co-directs and the Institute-wide Communications Futures Program and an NSF-funded program on Viral Radio (PDF, 384KB). At the Media Lab, he is the director of the Digital Life Program, a $3Million/year exploration of the impact of bits on personal, social and economic expression. He has testified at Congressional Committees on communications, been associated with startups in areas as diverse as animation and radio ID tags, and is on the board of WaveExpress. He is a Diamond-Cluster Fellow, and was on the technical advisory board of Robert Kahn's Cross Industry Working Team at the non-profit Corporation for National Research Initiatives. He has twelve patents and has worked on IP lawsuits for several others, and he helped develop the MPEG audio and video standards that play both HDTV pictures and MP3 audio. In the past twenty years, he has spoken over 100 times to groups as diverse as the hospitality industry and the board of the Consumer Electronics Association. He is also an avid ocean sailor. He earned his graduate degrees at MIT and at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne.


Viral Ideas are grassroots innovations that start at the edges of networks and industries, take only small investments to begin, yet build through social and technical opportunism to swamp entrenched, vertically integrated companies. True virality scales without bound, entails small startup costs, and grows in power with adoption. Spreadsheets are an example: they came from an apartment, began on the Apple II, and each new user refined them for others.

Viral Spaces research is about places where people communicate, both at a distance and locally, with each other. We develop technologies of connection. Our goal is to demonstrate ideas that facilitate discourse between real people in real places where networks and computing enhance that dialogue. This can entail creative interactions as well as transactional ones. Most often, our work involves an ecology or systems approach that includes both fixed elements such as displays and sensors as well as our mobile devices; we stress the need for end-to-end, comprehensive designs. Research activities include optical and radio network architectures, protocols based on intentions rather than destinations (We call this the Third Cloud), and applications that include retail transactions, information access, entertainment and social activity support.

PDF: First White Paper, 9/2002, 475KB
PDF: White Paper, 5/2003, 384KB


Lippman commutes between Maine and the Caribbean on Catch22, a Swan 48. He is also past Fleet Captain of the Corinthian Yacht Club in Marblehead, Massachusetts.

If you are interested in cruising Maine or Buzzards Bay with the club in August, and news of the cruise, inquire here.

In 2001, he sailed on Olympic in the BT Global Challenge, from Sydney to Capetown.




Communications Futures Working Group, October, 2004 (2.8MB)

Small Viral Slides, November 2004 (228KB)

Johnson and Johnson slides, December, 2004 (1 MB)

NSF Workshop, Nashua, October, 2004 (2.1MB)

For IT, June, 2005 (2.1MB)

Lippman Speaks...

A ten minute talk to the Johnson and Johnson Global Marketing Summit at MIT, December 2004. Stream or Download (Beware! 25megabytes.) Not available, 1/2005

Longer talk on innovation and university relationships, Diamond Cluster Exchange, October, 2004 (Stream)


Here are some papers, references, for general interest:

Architecture Machine Group, Human Interfaces...

Networks and Communications, technical references...

Viral Communications, general readers...

Proposals and Tech notes...


Journals, Commentary, Rants, and outated stuff. Revised aperiodically...

Here is a random gallery of Lippman shots, fairly large size: Pictures.


Carol Stronghilos Retrospective Sampling



Here is my latest track, from my SPOT Tracker. Yo can use this to track my sail to St John in November, 2009