Data on Learning to Speak

80,000 hours of video and 120,000 hours of audio recording.  That is the massive amount of data collected by MIT Media Lab‘s Human Speechome Project to analyze how one child learns to speak.  You can see a visual of the data on to get a feel for how words are gained over time.  Just clicking through the words and seeing the relationship between caregiver use and child use impresses me with the power of being able to collect such data.

“The Speechome team believes that this unique dataset may shed light on basic questions of language acquisition, at least as they pertain to one child. Why did he learn words in the order that he did? Why did he start putting certain words together into proto-sentences before others? In what contexts did he effectively use words? How long after he comprehends a word does he first use that word? How did the structure of everyday life at home influence language development? The research team at MIT is in the process of analyzing the audio and video recordings with the ultimate goal of addressing these questions.” according to the Forbes article Speech in the Home.

Immersive Communications

Alcatel-Lucent’s Bell Labs has announced an application called immersive communications that combines physical, virtual, and augmented reality into one.  Forbes covered the story in Bell Labs’ Super Virtual Conferencing.  The idea is that geographically dispersed people on a variety of mobile devices can have a virtual conference in which they all appear and sound to be in the same room.  Think video conference plus virtual reality and make it mobile.

The concept is enticing, though it may take a few years before we see it in use.  One-to-one communication has become mobile as has mass communication, so it is easy to see that small group communication would follow that trend.  In terms of video, again we see that throughout mass communication and we are beginning to see it with one-to-one communication as smart phones get video capabilities. We also see extensive use of land-line video conferencing in large organization, so it is not hard to imagine those systems folding in a mobile element.

What is harder to imagine is the virtual reality component.  The element of all participants appearing and sounding to be in the same room.  As a communication scholar, this is the most exciting element because it uses technology to replace the look and feel of human contact.

In an article Anywhere, Anytime Immersive Communications, authors T. Van Landegem and H. Viswanathan outline just why and how this new form of communication will occur.

I look forward to seeing you immersively some time in the next decade.