Having Natural Conversations with Our Things


Date Thursday January 18th 2018

5:00-6:30pm (5:00-6:00 presentation and Q&A, followed by networking until 6:30)

Venue George E. Pake Auditorium, PARC

PARC Forum

When and how we interact with technology is steering us toward conversation with our devices. Being able to talk to systems like our cars or our appliances brings all kinds of new, maybe even unthinkable, possibilities. Researchers and designers are imagining Conversational User Interfaces (CUIs) as a new paradigm in technology that could be as transformative as Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs) were at one time. GUIs helped propel personal computers into widespread use; CUIs could be the enabler of natural conversations with our “things,” even those we haven’t conceived of yet. Join us for a discussion about how we’re thinking about and designing “invisible” conversations with technology, and how the future is changing because of it.


Ron Kaplan has served as Vice President of Amazon and the Chief Scientist of Amazon Search Technologies in Palo Alto. Previously, he was founder and director of the Natural Language and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at Nuance Communications, with a focus on dialog and the conversational user interface. Before Nuance, he managed the Semantic Initiatives and Natural Language Platform teams for the Bing search engine. He also served as Chief Technology Officer and Chief Scientific Officer at Powerset, a deep semantic-search company acquired by Microsoft. Powerset was a PARC spin-out based on technology developed by the Natural Language Theory and Technology (NLTT) research group that Ron directed for many years. NLTT descended from PARC’s Language Understanding project where work on the conversational user interface began in the early 1970s. Ron is known for his influential contributions to computational linguistics and linguistic theory, particularly in the areas of morphology and syntax. He received his Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Harvard University and was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Faculty of Humanities at Copenhagen University. He holds 36 patents for inventions in the language technology field.
Cathy Pearl is VP of user experience at Sensely, whose virtual nurse avatar, Molly, helps people engage with their health. Cathy is the author of the O’Reilly book “Designing Voice User Interfaces.” She has worked on everything from helicopter pilot simulators at NASA to a conversational iPad app in which Esquire magazine’s style columnist tells you what you should wear on a first date. During her time at Nuance and Microsoft, Cathy designed VUIs for banks, airlines, and Ford SYNC. Cathy holds a BS in cognitive science from UCSD and an MS in computer science from Indiana University.
Abi Jones leads teams answering critical business questions through design, prototyping, and testing ideas with customers. In her role at Area 120 she focuses on experimental products. Previously she was a design lead for the Security & Privacy team, Google Fiber, and Google Search. Prior to joining Google in 2011, Abi designed social systems for MySpace, campaigns and sales systems for StubHub and Ferrari, and online leadership and safety tools for the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Abi holds a bachelor’s degree in Art History from Seattle University and a masters degree in Instructional Design and Development from George Mason University.
Kyle Dent is focused on creating novel technologies that help people interact with information, and uses cognitive scientific techniques to model and evaluate this interaction. Before coming to PARC in 2008, Kyle worked for Hewlett-Packard as a software architect. He is the author of Postfix: The Definitive Guide published by O’Reilly & Associates in 2003. Kyle has a M.F.A in film from the University of Miami, and a M.S. in computer science from the Columbia School of Engineering and Applied Science.

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