Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
SAF Archives  search ask the scientists in the classroom cool science
past teaching guides
interactive activities
cool careers in science
in the classroom

Guide & Resources

Welcome to the future! Imagine a computer that would recognize faces of people and prompt you to remember their names, or a smart car that could sense when you're falling asleep at the wheel. Scientists at the MIT Media Lab believe all this and more is possible. Host Alan Alda and the crew of Scientific American Frontiers take you there to meet scientists who are literally inventing the future. Here are the topics and running times of stories on this show and a brief description of related activities you'll find in this online teaching guide:

  • Big Picture

  • Virtually Real (running time: 13:24) - Meet Silas, the MIT Media Lab's virtual pet dog. See software agents that could help you navigate cyberspace and the real world. Activities: An overview of the show and this guide; Exercise your brain with thoughtful activities and questions.

  • Body Talk (running time: 9:15) - In the future, computers may take the form of animated characters like Gandolf or even a smart desk. Alan Alda hosts a cooking show using a smart camera. Activities: A design challenge invites students to create their own intelligent devices; Graphing pixels.

  • Smart Car (running time: 11:23) - A smart car that could wake up the driver and prevent accidents is already in the making. Find out more about the human brain. Activity: Experimenting with artificial intelligence.

  • Private Eyes (running time: 11:44) - Computers may turn up in your shoes, your glasses or your jewelry. Activity: Debating the role of computers and technology in society today and tomorrow.

  • Brain Music (running time: 7:04) - High-tech hyperinstruments meet opera in a new kind of interactive performance medium. Activities: Learn about the physics of music by making low-tech instruments.

  • Viewer Challenge After you watch "Inventing the Future", test your viewing skills with ten questions about the show!


Scientific American Frontiers
Fall 1990 to Spring 2000
Sponsored by GTE Corporation,
now a part of Verizon Communications Inc.