Dubai – MENA Herald: Four teams of students, entrepreneurs and professionals from across the Middle East presented on Friday September 2 their solutions to the question of how we can redefine our cities.

From August 29 to September 2, the MIT Media Lab, Community Jameel and Wamda came together to convene 30+ designers, engineers, scientists, and artists at AlSerkal Avenue in Dubai.

“We’ve got our style down now,” said Jess Sousa, events and special projects manager at MIT ML. “The teams are more prepared”.

Looking at the ideas that were presented Sousa said that they would likely see all the ideas be deployed eventually, especially City Matrix, an existing project with the MIT ML, being iterated on by the data intervention track.

The participants prototyped within four different tracks, joined by MIT Media Lab professors, research assistants and research scientists who supported them with mentorship, advice and technical help.

In her speech, Sarah Ghaleb, SGM of the education and poverty alleviation initiatives at Community Jameel, highlighted the importance of collaboration among Arab youth and the role Community Jameel is playing in supporting innovation in the MENA region.

Habib Haddad, Wamda’s CEO, while introducing the event, pointed out at the fast pace technology startups are rising in the Arab world, and that youth in this region will be leading the next tech breakthrough.

Each track had around eight to 10 members who went on field trips around Dubai during the first day of the workshop and immersed themselves in the problems they are tackling.

Among those mentors the event hosted Iyad Rahwan, associate professor of media arts and sciences at the MIT Media Lab; J. Philipp Schmidt, director of learning innovation at the MIT Media Lab; and design researcher Ashley Shaffer and design director Nick DuPey of global design agency IDEO, who also supported with on the ground facilitation of the workshop.

Among the guest speakers to the five day long event was MIT Media Lab’s Joi Ito; social commentator Sultan Al-Qassemi; Lebanese artist Yazan Halwani; Cameron Sinclair, founder of Architects for Humanity; architect Fadi Sarieddine, and others.

The tracks

Track 1: Learning for underserved communities, led by Philipp Schmidt and Noor Eddin Amer.
Teams explored the use of virtual reality (VR) technology such as Google Cardboard, to create learning opportunities for underserved communities in general, and refugees in particular.

Track 2: Digital tools for a cooperative society, led by Sohan Dsouza, Donald Derek Haddad, Pinar Yanardag Delul and Iyad Rahwan.
Teams investigated regional urban ecosystems facing a youth bulge and a shifting social and political landscape. They worked on finding ways to motivate citizens to collaborate while building communities, focused on safety, infrastructure, commerce, and education.

Track 3: Developing smart communal spaces, led by Poseidon Ho and Chrisoula Kapelonis.
This track explored design solutions that enable communal spaces to function as if they were much larger, through technologies such as augmented reality and architectural robotics. Topic of focus was micro-living, kinetic spaces and smart homes.

Track 4: Urban intervention with data, led by Yan Zhang, and Dawei Shen.
This track investigated emerging technologies such as urban big data observatory and real-time simulations, and created a democratic urban decision supporting system.

Now in its fourth year this MIT Media Lab workshop programme has previously been held in Sao Paulo, Mexico and Abu Dhabi. The first of which being held in Detroit.