Brent Woo: Say a Command

Language technology has advanced to the point where we can translate entire websites with a single click and our phones have mainstream ""intelligent personal assistants"" with snappy personalities. All this gives rise to the exciting prospect of talking with our computers in animated, spontaneous conversation.

This presentation explores some of the intricate properties and nuances of human language, the miracle of child language acquisition, and the problems involved in getting computers to understand and produce human language. Ultimately, the union of abstract, theoretical linguistics and computer programming is an interdisciplinary frontier that challenges what it means to be ""practical"".

Brent Woo is in his second year at Eastern Michigan University, as a graduate student pursuing a Master's in Linguistics and Language Technology. He graduated from UCLA in 2011 with a double Bachelor's in Linguistics and Russian Studies. He will be continuing on in the fall to get his Ph.D. in Linguistics at another institution. His research focuses on the syntax of human language and computational methods to process natural language. In his spare time he builds IKEA furniture without instructions and plays the pipe organ while blindfolded.

Watch the video.