How did your interest in linguistics and psychology lead you
to work with technology and computers?
I began applying for jobs, I realized that the whole field
was full of boundaries. The interdisciplinary work that I
wanted to do wasn't going to be easy to find a home for. My
first job, at Penn State, I was faculty in three departments.
Linguistics, Psychology, and French. I knew that my interests
should have a home. So I applied to be visiting faculty at
University of Pennsylvania where I was in the Institute for
Research on Cognitive Science - which is interdisciplinary
to start with - and I was also in Computer Science for the
When I first came to MIT, I thought, "these people
year, I planned to build computational models of the relationship
between speech and gesture. That would be a way of proving
to these different communities that what I was doing was really
science. The models that I wanted to build were virtual people
in whom I could fit my grammars of the relationships between
speech and gesture. I could test my hypothesis by building
one virtual human that ran one hypothesis and another virtual
human that ran another one, and then compare them.
had a group of graduate students whom I worked with to build
these virtual people, and three faculty with whom I collaborated.
We built the very first speaking and gesturing virtual human.
What is it like working at MIT's Media Lab?
and her students at MIT with some of thier creations,
REA, Beat (at left), Monster and Sam (at right).
I first came here, I thought, "these people are crazy." I
remember somebody showing me a software program that could
take a photograph and find trees in it. And I thought, "What?
I could find trees." I just had no understanding of
the fields that went into this, and half the time I thought
they were pulling my leg. But, I found that there was lots
of overlap between what they were doing and what I was doing.
In children's learning, in narrative, in gesture, in language.
I was just blown away that finally, in one building, everything
I did could be housed.
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MIT Media Lab