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Dissertation Defense

Sunil Vemuri:
"Personal Long-Term Memory Aids"

Thursday, July 22, 2004, 11:00 AM EST

Bartos Theatre, MIT Media Lab (E15)

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Walter Bender
Senior Research Scientist
Program in Media Arts and Sciences
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Chris Schmandt
Principal Research Scientist
Program in Media Arts and Sciences
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Rosalind Picard
Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences
Academic Head, Media Arts and Sciences
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The prevalence and affordability of personal and environmental recording apparatuses are leading to increased documentation of our daily lives. This trend is bound to continue and it follows that academic, industry, and government groups are showing an increased interest in such endeavors for various purposes. In the present case, Vemuri asserts that such documentation can be used to help remedy common memory problems.

Assuming a long-term personal archive exists, when confronted with a memory problem, one faces a new challenge of finding relevant memory triggers. This thesis examines the use of information-retrieval technologies on long-term archives of personal experiences towards remedying certain types of long-term forgetting.

The approach focuses on capturing audio for the content. Research on Spoken Document Retrieval examines the pitfalls of information-retrieval techniques on error-prone speech-recognizer-generated transcripts and these challenges carry over to the present task. However, "memory retrieval" can benefit from the person's familiarity of the recorded data and the context in which it was recorded to help guide their effort.

To study this, Vemuri constructed memory-retrieval tools designed to leverage a person's familiarity of their past to optimize their search task. To evaluate the utility of these towards solving long-term memory problems, he (1) recorded semi-public events and evaluated witnesses' memory-retrieval approaches using these tools; and (2) conducted a longer-term memory-retrieval study based on recordings of several years of my personal and research-related conversations. From this, Vemuri discusses the successes and failures of various remedy approaches.

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