Can Technology Help Humans Listen?

By Kathryn O'Neill

Deb Roy SM ’95, PhD ’99 has always loved robots. He grew up building them in his basement in Canada, studied computer engineering at the University of Waterloo, then focused his MIT dissertation on machine-learning models of human language learning. To this end, he recorded 240,000 hours of audio and video of his own infant son’s acquisition of language, work that led to Birth of a Word, a TED Talk with more than 3 million views online.

A faculty member at MIT since 2000, Roy is also cofounder and former CEO of Bluefin Labs, a media analytics company acquired by Twitter. He served as Twitter’s chief media scientist from 2013 to 2017 and was executive director of the MIT Media Lab from 2019 to 2021.


In advance of his talk at ALC, Slice of MIT asked Roy to share some thoughts about his research, constructive communication, and how technology might be employed for social good. 

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