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What if you could record your life?

By 09/12/2011One Comment

In the dark ages, I studied educational sciences and agogics, the science of social interaction. How people learn, how group dynamics influence behavior and how individuals interact with their environment has intrigued me ever since.

I was baffled to hear Deb Roy speak @ #LeWeb11. When his little baby boy was born, Roy and his wife took a courageous decision: they would move into a house that would record every second of their lives, sound and video. The house has sound recording equipment, and cameras all over, and is packed with the most spectacular processing and storage power MIT can provide.

Deb Roy first mission was a misleading simple one, he wanted to understand how language is assimilated by humans. Lan­guage is without a shadow of a doubt one of the defin­ing fea­tures of the human species. By collecting busloads of data on how his child learns in the nat­u­ral habitat of its home, Roy wants to track the process.  Cameras record where the family moves, microphones record sounds…all this is captured, labeled and data mined. The system is able to produce the whole sequence from the baby sound “gaga” to say­ing “water.” The system can also find correlations between assimilating words and vocabulary, and visual impressions. Roy was able to prove that words that are more often associated with an image are quicker absorbed by the child.

By recording every single bit of data, scrubbing the data from unwanted ballast, correctly labeling it, and building intuitive learn­ing algo­rithms to process, analyze and under­stand the patterns Roy is now able to visualize these patterns, interpret them, and close on understanding.

On top of the obvious hearing/learning connection, Roy can prove a definite social con­text to learn­ing, up to a point where his analytic tools can predict how fast a word will be learned, based on the movements in the house, and the number of times the child is exposed to the word.

Armed with this amazing technology, Roy started up Bluefin Lab, convinced that the same prin­ci­ples of lin­guis­tic analy­sis, visualization and predictive interpretation can be applied to new areas, such as TV and the social web. Bluefin Lab  is now not only index­ing over 200  US net­works, 200,000 shows and 2 mil­lion ads per month; it is also connecting all the online conversations gen­er­ated by 20 mil­lion peo­ple around these indexed items,  .

The associations, learnings and predictive formulas that Roy is able to distill out of his system  of cognitive machines are mindboggling, and I am convinced that we’re only at the beginning of social datamining. This will in earnest change the way we deal with “influence” and “metrics

Tell me what you did when you said it… and I’ll predict what you will do next…

One Comment

  • Stijn says:

    Scientific research like the one done by Deb Roy are interesting cases, but I’m not sure you need to follow every individual to make the same discoveries.

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