April 24, 2007 4:00 AM PDT

Interactive design blooms in NYU hallways

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Still, there is no shortage of inspiration for students while they are in the program.

In fact, Shirky said he thinks of the program as being "the center for the study of the recently possible."

"Students say, 'Oh, there's this new (technological) capability,'" Shirky said, '"but nobody has pressed it into service yet.'"

So they do it themselves.

One project in the works is from a team led by first-year student Adam Simon. Called "People Rank," or "Social Bomb," it is a system designed to automatically measure social reputation and popularity through a game.

Essentially, players wear a small gadget, and then the technology measures people's reputations and popularity by how they interact with others and to whom they talk. The more they talk to people, the more their score goes up, and vice versa. But the system can also detract a user's points based on the popularity of the person he is talking to.

Ultimately, the chance to work on such projects in an atmosphere where everyone is helping each other out and where learning, not competition, is the goal makes ITP a top choice for many applicants.

Shirky said that while ITP competes for students with programs like the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the video game program at the University of Southern California, it often ends up being the first choice for those who have more broad interests and is not focused on a single kind of technology.

"What makes it great is that everyone is learning something new," second-year student Michael Ang said. "So everyone is a beginner."

Ang added that ITP is structured so that students have to be able to take initiative and work quickly, skills that will suit them well in the professional world.

"You get into this mode," Ang said, "where you're coming up with all these ideas, and you can whip out a quick prototype."

And in the end, while students must pack their class schedules during their four semesters at ITP, both faculty and students alike say it's really about the work that gets done in the hallways.

"It's half art school and half product development summer camp," Crowley said. "You take 200 people and stick them in that tiny space for two years, and good things are going to come out of it."

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NYU Interactive Telecom Program
Question for Daniel Terdiman. Good article and outstanding program at NYU. You mention MIT and USC having similar programs for developing new products and concepts for starting new companies. Are there other universities with similar programs? Carnegie Mellon has been a top tier school in computer science and telecom and product development in this sector. I am with Systems Technology Research Inst. in Cleveland, OH and working with grad students and recent graduates in computer engineering and science, sciences and design who have products and business concepts that will be the basis for starting new companies.
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