MIT Scientist Monitors His Son for 90,000 Hours to See His Vocabulary and Learning Development

In a talk on TED.com, cognitive scientist Deb Roy shared a remarkable experiment that hearkens back to an earlier era of science using brand-new technology. 

From the day he and his wife brought their son home five years ago, the family’s every movement and word was captured and tracked with a series of fisheye lenses in every room in their house. The purpose was to understand how we learn language, in context, through the words we hear. 

A combination of new software and human transcription called Blitzscribe allowed them to parse 200 terabytes of data to capture the emergence and refinement of specific words in Roy’s son’s vocabulary. Roy later on analyzed the results through graphs.

Roy is now taking the amazing research capability and team he’s developed and applying it to commerce. He’s on leave from MIT and has founded a VC-backed company called Bluefin Labs that applies these same high-powered analytics to relate, not the speech of a child to that of a father, but events broadcast on TV to conversations taking place in social media, the better to chart “engagement” with the State of the Union Address or Jersey Shore or a car commercial.

What an interesting way of taking his ideas out of the lab and into the world!

(Image Credit: Deb Roy via Fast Company)


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