The leading-edge HKUST-NIE Social Media Lab showed it was ahead of its time even before its official opening in February 2012, with the development of frontier portable multi-touch technology in late 2011.
The Lab is Asia's first research laboratory specializing in the study of social media culture and technologies. The focus is on research and design of next-generation social media systems, networks and applications. The social media research powerhouse, which seeks to put Asia at the forefront of advances in the field, has been established by the Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering, with Prof James She appointed the Director.
"We want to analyze the phenomenon of physical social networks, online social networks, and mobile social networks," Prof She told In Focus. "But we will not only work on theories. Like the MIT Media Lab or the Computer Laboratory at Cambridge University, we are looking to explore and build creative systems. In particular, we are exploring cyber-physical social network systems, which we see will be the wave of the future."
Cyber-physical systems involve the combination of and coordination between computational and physical elements. For instance, the Lab's exciting multi-touch enabler can retrofit ordinary glass in existing windows, turning them into interactive environments – similar to a touch screen – and allowing people to share information in novel ways. Its researchers have also developed an app technology called "slide", which allows users to generate content through interaction between the glass and their mobile device.
Other major areas for research include social analytics for viral media broadcasts in social networks; cloud-based social network analysis and data visualization; big data systems for social media delivery, processing and storage; social and mobile internet protocol television (IPTV); and cyber-physical arts and media production. Related emerging technologies range from out-of-home interactive and sensing digital signage to wearable devices.
Collaborations with major partners, including OpenRice, Next Media, CyPhy Media, Turner Broadcasting System, Research in Motion and CyberPort digital community, are already underway. As content can cover many areas, the Lab is also working closely with social scientists, multi-disciplinary researchers, artists, and media technology practitioners.