The Laboratory for Social Machines (LSM) is the result of a journey that started with basic research at the MIT Media Lab nearly 15 years ago, migrated into the world of high-tech startups, gained a valued partner along the way – and has now come full circle to land where it all began.
Deb Roy launched the Cognitive Machines research group in 2000, developing computational models of semantic grounding to build machines that could understand and use language in human-like ways (e.g., conversational robots) and to study and model child language development (e.g., the Human Speechome Project).
In 2008, Deb went on leave from MIT to co-found Bluefin Labs, applying his MIT research methodologies to real world problems – specifically, semantically grounding public social media in terms of TV content. Bluefin created industry-leading analytics products for US television broadcasters and marketers.
In 2013, Twitter acquired Bluefin and began deploying its technologies on a global scale to power new advertising and consumer capabilities. Deb became Twitter’s Chief Media Scientist and now advises the company on global media and growth strategy.
Upon his return to MIT, Deb founded and leads Social Machine’s work in applying the lessons learned from basic research and industry-scale solutions for social impact. Social Machines is based at the MIT Media Lab and was created on the basis of a $10M USD grant and complete access to all tweets (real-time and historical) from Twitter.
Social Machines’ research program is separate and distinct from Roy’s advisory work at Twitter. Given Twitter’s sponsorship of Social Machines and Roy’s dual MIT/Twitter role, guidelines have been established to manage potential conflicts of interest.