Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

James L. Flanagan

6th William Gould Dow Distinguished Lecture

“Natural Communication with Networked Information Systems:
Research and Prospectives”

James L. Flanagan, PhD
Vice President for Research
Director of the Center for Advanced Information Processing
Board of Governors Professor of Electrical Engineering
at Rutgers University

Networked information systems are becoming pervasive. Their utility can be enhanced by user environments that accommodate natural communication, and which exhibit attributes that humans favor in face-to-face exchange. Ideally, the environment should provide three-dimensional spatial realism in the sensory modes of sight, sound and touch — all beyond practical reality at this time. But research in ‘multimodal’ interfaces, where information is simultaneously signaled in multiple channels, aims to expand ease of use by employing naturally-learned modes of communication. Typically, conversational interaction carries the principal burden, with visual and manual signaling supplementing or complementing the exchange. Information capture in multiple sensory formats poses instrumentation challenges, as does their fusion and reliable interpretation of user intent. Ambiguity, duplication and omission contribute to complexity. This talk describes fledgling efforts in multimodal interfaces. It addresses the capture of simultaneous sensory information in sight, sound and touch. And, it highlights the need for a quantitative language framework for multimodal communication, perhaps similar to that for spoken language.

Biographical Sketch
James Flanagan is Vice President for Research, Director of the Center for Advanced Information Processing, and Board of Governors Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rutgers University. Prior to his career at Rutgers, Dr. Flanagan spent a long career at Bell Laboratories where he was one of the world’s pioneers in speech processing.

Flanagan's personal research has centered in voice communications, computer techniques and electroacoustic systems. He has contributed to signal coding algorithms now in wide use for telecommunications and voice-mail systems, and to currently-evolving techniques for automatic speech synthesis and recognition. He invented autodirective microphone arrays for teleconferencing, and pioneered the use of digital computers for acoustic signal processing. Dr. Flanagan has received numerous scientific awards and recognitions, including the National edal of Science, the L.M. Ericsson International Prize in Telecommunications, and the IEEE Edison Medal. The IEEE Signal Processing Society recently established an IEEE Field Award in his honor. Dr. Flanagan is a Fellow of the IEEE and holds a Ph.D in Electrical Engineering from MIT.