` Nan Zhao

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Nan Zhao is a researcher at the MIT Media Lab. Her research aspiration is to improve people's daily experience by making our living environments more dynamic and responsive to our needs. She received a Ph.D. in Media Arts and Sciences from MIT and a Dipl. -Ing. degree in Electrical Engineering from RWTH Aachen University in Germany. Her work spans from intelligent building control to smart urban furniture and connects various fields, including sensor technologies, wearable computing, space design, and psychology.

Nan's recent work aims to address a growing need for better work environments by investigating how adaptive architecture could benefit the workplace. In particular, she is interested in what characterizes the experience of being somewhere and how we might dynamically recreate this feeling using multisensory media to improve office spaces for creative, focused, and restorative activities. In a previous project, Nan co-foundered Soofa, a venture backed smart city startup, which introduced a solar charging bench for public spaces. This bench both supplies citizens with free green energy and provides the city with environmental data. Before joining the Media Lab, Nan conducted research on smart control for electricity grids and electric vehicle charging at the Imperial College London and at RWE in Germany.

Nan authored several academic publications and her work has been covered by news outlets such as Reuters, FAZ, CNN, and others.

Recent Projects

Mediated Atmospheres

Halo: Wearable Lighting

Soofa: Solar Power for Everyone

Lighting Lab

Blog: Workshops and Tutorials ...


2016 MIT Information & Communication Technologies Conference
2015 Department of Energy Solid State Lighting Workshop in San Francisco
2014 Panel Keynote at Data Days 2014 in Berlin
2013 Tencent's WE summit in Shenzhen, China
2013 Boston Design Exchange in Boston

Mediated Atmospheres: A Multimodal Mediated Work Environment. to be presented at Ubicomp'17, Maui, USA.
Authors: N. Zhao, A. Azaria, J.A. Paradiso.
project website, PDF
Tag: Wearable, Lighting Control, Multimodal Media, Biosensors, Smart Environments
A Multidimensional Continuous Contextual Lighting Control System Using Google Glass presented at BuildSys'15, Seoul, South Korea.
Authors: N. Zhao, M. Aldrich, C.F. Reinhart, J.A. Paradiso.
project website, PDF
Best Presentation
Tag: Wearable, Lighting Control, User Interface, Smart Environments
HALO: Wearable Lighting presented at UbiComp/ISWC '15 Adjunct, September 7-11, 2015, Osaka, Japan.
Authors: N. Zhao and J.A. Paradiso.
project website, PDF
Award for Best Esthetics, ISWC Design Exhibition
Tag: Wearable, Lighting, Art
EMI Spy: Harnessing Electromagnetic Interference for Low-Cost, Rapid Prototyping of Proxemic Interaction presented at IEEE Conference on Body Sensor Networks (BSN), Cambridge, MA, 2015.
Authors: N. Zhao, G. Dublon, A. Dementyev, N. Gillian, and J.A. Paradiso.
project website, PDF
Tag: Sensors, Wearable, Machine Learning
Random Walk and Lighting Control presented in Proceedings of the IEEE Sensors Conference, Baltimore, MD, 2013.
Authors: Aldrich, Badshah, Mayton, Zhao, Paradiso.
project website, PDF
Tag: Sensor Network, Lighting Control
WristQue: A personal sensor wristband presented in IEEE International Conference on Body Sensor Networks (BSN), Cambridge, MA, 2013
Authors: Brian D. Mayton, N. Zhao, M. Aldrich, N. Gillian, J.A. Paradiso.
project website, PDF
Best Paper
Tag: Wearable, Sensors, Gesture Recognition, Machine Learning
A Customizable Sensate Surface for Music Control presented in Proceedings of NIME 2012, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 2012.
Authors: N-W. Gong, N. Zhao, and J.A. Paradiso.
project website, PDF
Tag: Sensors, Flexible Electronics, Printed Electronics
Ferro tale: electromagnetic animation interface presented in CHI '12 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI EA '12). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 2012
Authors: Nan Zhao, Xiang Cao, and Jaturont Jamigranont.
project website, PDF
Tag: Art, Electromagnetic Actuation
Energy-efficient control of solid-state lighting presented in SPIE Newsroom, March 25 2011.
Authors: M. Aldrich, N. Zhao, J.A. Paradiso
project website, PDF
Tag: Sensors, Lighting Control
Energy Efficient Control of Polychromatic Solid-State Lighting Using a Sensor Network presented in SPIE Optical Engineering+ Applications, San Diego, CA, August 1-5, 2010.
Authors: M. Aldrich, N. Zhao, J.A. Paradiso
project website, PDF
Tag: Sensors, Lighting Control

Awards and Fellowships:
2013-2014 MIT Energy Fellow
2012 Department of Energy Better Building Case Competition
2012 RWTH Aachen Springorum-Denkmuenze
2008 Nokia Siemens Networks Frauenfoerderpreis / Nokia Siemens Networks Women’s Prize
2008 RWE Studienfoerderung / RWE Industry Fellowship