Robert Burke's MLE Page

MIT MediaLabEurope

MindGames Group

My new home page


  Mind Balance
  Still Life
  Peace Composed

  The whole .NET thing

  Affective Paint
  Relax to Win PPC

The Other Stuff
  Computer Learning
  Some Publications

Hello!  Until recently I was a Research Associate in the
MindGames Group at the late MIT MediaLabEurope.  My research focus there was the application of ideas from computer learning to medical domains.  Along the way I led the development of Symphony, a software framework that is still used extensively at MLE to develop applications for clinical, rehabilitation and even performing arts settings. 

When I left the lab in April 2004, I began work (independent of MLE) on a sequel to Symphony.  The new version reached the final testing phases in August before it was put on hold.  I'm now working with Microsoft .

seamlessly integrates a real-time signal processing framework, a 3D visualization package, and the foundation required to rapidly develop applications.  It allows us to design, prototype and deploy applications that interpret and visualize a variety of signals.

Here is some more information about Symphony.  (also, check it out! Symphony is now a Microsoft case study!)

I recently wrote an article describing Symphony for CodeZone Magazine.  Here are two PDF versions of the article: a scanned copy (.pdf), and a printer-friendly version (.pdf) that lacks CodeZone's superior formatting.  (Note: the engine was named Symphony a matter of days after CodeZone went to press.)



Here are some of the projects we've built with Symphony. 

Your brain provides the interface to help you control the Mawg as he makes his way across the cosmic tightrope!

Mind Balance

Mind Balance is our first application to use a person's electroencephalogram (EEG) as a control mechanism. 

In Mind Balance, a participant must assist a tightrope-walking behemoth known only as the Mawg, by helping him keep his balance as he totters across a cosmic tightrope.  All in a day's work for a typical computer gamer -- but a participant at the helm of Mind Balance has no joystick, no mouse, and not even a camera -- only a brain cap that non-invasively measures signals from the back of their head.

 Here are some pictures and more information about Mind Balance.

Jennifer Fleenor from Dublin's Counterbalance dancers interacts with Still Life during the Feilican Project at AAATE2003, Dublin.

Still Life

Still Life is a "magic mirror" interface that provides many interchangeable modes of physical interaction.

In its original mode, Still Life took the relaxation metaphor from Relax To Win and added a physical component inspired by tai chi.  When a participant holding two orbs remained still in particular positions while watching themselves in the "magic mirror," they vanished into the background as the orbs released particles of paint that revealed a picture.

In another mode, a person moving  in front of the mirror produces a trail of glitter behind them.  Dozens of 3D butterflies that chase the motion glitter can be released into the world of the magic mirror. 

Still Life is now being deployed in the Central Remedial Clinic north of Dublin for therapeutic purposes.  We will be working with therapists to refine the interaction for patients with particular needs.  Still Life has also provided the interactive component for a number of live performances; most recently, in Geneva at the World Summit on the Information Society, and in Dublin, at the closing ceremony of the 2003 conference for the Association of Assistive Technology in Europe (AAATE).

Here are some pictures and more information about Still Life.

Peace Composed

In Peace Composed, you must relax in order to reveal the many layers in a piece of Phil McDarby's orchestral music.  The more you relax, the more intricate the music becomes.

Here is a little more information about Peace Composed.


The whole .NET thing
It's true, Symphony is written almost entirely in C#, and I've been working with the .NET framework for almost three years now.  Around the lab I've become a sort of unexpected evangelist for .NET technologies.  I think the rapid development of Symphony speaks for itself.  (So does the diversity of the applications designed and built by the relatively-small MindGames team over the past two years!)

But for the curious, I've started to jot down a bit of information on why I work with .NET.  For now, please don't hesitate to ask me!


Along the way, Symphony has provided the foundation for a whole bunch of stress-tests and cool experiments.

One of Scott Eaton's Affective Paint creations

Affective Paint

coming soon.  Some lovely artwork here.




Biomelodics is application that uses acoustic and visual biofeedback controlled by an adaptive learning mechanism to encourage a participant to maintain a constant heart rate that could be quite different from their resting heart rate.  The utility of such an exercise is motivated by findings that conscious physiological control of heart rate can be augmented using biofeedback techniques, and a number of diverse real-world applications that require a participant to maintain a steady heart rate that is possibly quite different from their resting heart rate, such as relaxation exercises to reduce hypertension, and schedules of physical exercise.  Biomelodics is also our first application that uses a new adaptive learning mechanism in the biofeedback loop.

Relax To Win, PocketPC Edition!

Relax To Win PocketPC

With the help of the lads in the group, we ported our flagship stress-busting demo
Relax To Win to the iPAQ 3870, sans biometric input (for now!). 



Other Stuff
Some of the other things I've been up to while living in Dublin.

Online Photo Album


Dublin may be the "dirty ol' town" of song, but Ireland's scenery can be truly stunning.  And thanks to Europe's minor miracles (RyanAir, EasyJet and their friends) I've had plenty of chances to explore the continent.  Even more importantly, I'm fortunate enough to have friends all over the place that are keen to take part when adventure (and hilarity) beckons.  So I've started keeping a
photo album online to document some of this.  You're also very welcome to download and use Tralee, the utility I wrote that helps me automate the album's upkeep.

Included in the gallery are photographs from my backpacking trip I took through Southeast Asia from April through June of 2004.


In addition to my research, I was fortunate enough from Fall 2002 through Spring of 2003 to attend the undergraduate course in
Physiology at the University College Dublin (UCD) Medical School, with Dr. Philip Nolan of the Department of Human Anatomy and Physiology as an academic advisor.  This course covers all aspects of human physiology, and is the full course in Physiology undertaken by medical students at UCD.

Computer Learning
Prior to joining MediaLabEurope, I completed a Master's degree at the
MIT Media Lab in Boston under the guidance of Dr Bruce Blumberg.  That part of my life is chronicled at my old home page there. My thesis contributed a new model for computer adaptation and learning that was inspired by recent innovations in the field of ethology.  The chapter I wrote for Helmut Prendinger and Mitsuru Ishizuka's Lifelike Characters book is a good intro to that work.

Burnination in Pimlico... shenanigans or hooliganism? You decide!

Another batch of pure, unmitigated... shenanigans!
Here are the web sites of my sisters Elizabeth and Caleigh.   The Computer Clubhouse rocks.  I recently gave a C# Primer talk that was retro-fitted into the MLE crash course scheme.  (If I'm not already well out of the closet by now -- I'm a huge fan of the C# language and the .NET framework.)  Interested in playing with my implementations of texture synthesis, transfer and Wang Tiling?  How about decoding mp3s in C#? Or accessing video capture devices with .NET? The tai chi course I've been taking for almost a year now keeps me sane.  When two geeks talk it sounds like akakakakakak.  I'm afraid Jim's just performed some operation on Daragh outside the steel cage.  And Phil seems ready for a steel cage match himself.

An old pal with a new look takes a bow

Contacting Me
Sending me e-mail
by clicking here is probably the fastest way to get in touch. 

Some Publications (note: some recent MindGames-related ones are missing!!)
R. Burke, B. R. Duffy, L. Goodman, T. Lignon, J. Sudol, "Anima Obscura" in Proceedings of IBC 2004. (pdf)

R. Burke, "Breathing New Life into Accessibility" in Codezone Magazine (Roger Schaeffeler, Ed.) 4th Quarter 2003. (pdf) (pdf for print)

E. Lalor, S. Kelly, C. Finucane, R. Burke, R. Smith, R. Reilly, G. McDarby, "EEG-based Brain Computer Interface Control in an Immersive 3D Gaming Environment" in EURASIP Journal on Applied Signal  Processing (JASP) 2004.

R. Burke, "Great Expectations: Prediction in Entertainment Applications" in Life-like Characters. Tools, Affective Functions, and Applications (Helmut Prendinger and Mitsuru Ishizuka, eds.). Cognitive Technologies Series, Springer, Berlin New York, 2004. (pdf) (doc)

R. Burke, B. Blumberg. "Using Apparent Temporal Causality for Learning in Synthetic Creatures." In the Proceedings of the International Joint Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems (AAMAS), Bologna, Italy. July 2002.

R. Burke.  It's about Time: Temporal Representations for Synthetic Characters. (M.S. Thesis.) Rev. September 2001 (pdf)

D. Isla, R. Burke, "A Layered Brain Architecture for Synthetic Characters," in the Proceedings of the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI), pp.1051-1058, Seattle, WA, August 2001. (pdf)

R. Burke, D. Isla, M. Downie, Y. Ivanov and B. Blumberg. "Creature Smarts: The Art and Architecture of a Virtual Brain." In the Proceedings of the Game Developers Conference, pp. 147-166, San Jose, CA, 2001. (pdf)

S.-Y. Yoon, R. C. Burke, B. M. Blumberg, G. E. Schneider. "Interactive Training for Synthetic Characters," in the Proceedings of AAAI 2000.