The analysis of learning takes a quantum leap forward

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Deb Roy is a researcher at MIT’s Media Lab within the Cognitive Machines group. He’s also the CEO of Bluefin Labs. He presented some of his work at the recent TED event.

TED stands for “Technology, Entertainment, and Design”. The TED conferences tend to be an eclectic mix of forward-thinking researchers and enterpreneurs who transcend business, media, entertainment, and academia. I first learned of TED from AOL’s Steve Case via his Twitter account. Case is a big fan.

The Deb Roy presentation was a classic TED event. Roy starts by showing how he wired his home to video every event in every room non-step, from the moment his newborn son was brought home. Eventually he compiled literally hundreds of thousands of hours of video that he turned over to his research staff at MIT to analyze the patterns of language learning as exhibited by his son’s efforts to learn to speak.

But the video hardly stops there. The research moves into the process of analyzing speech patterns and subject matter in online comments, blogs, and other text-based utterances from the World Wide Web, compared against the speech of news media, for the purposes of drawing patterns, identifying topical interests, the flow of thought across the online world, and more.

He mentions the use of semantics at one point. While he doesn’t elaborate on this, semantics would be the connection that interpret meaning in the words. For example, if President Obama mentions the word “budget” in a speech, then semantics would be the process by which a comment that does not mention “budget”, but perhaps mentions “government” and “deficit”, might still be included in the findings.

Here’s the video, it’s fascinating on many levels, from the way he wired his house for video, to the ultimate place he and his MIT team take the analysis.


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