Click here to return to Messiah College's homepage

Artificial intelligence expertise earns professor a patent

Randy Fish

It is estimated that 300 million people use Google every day in their quest to find information on the web. Imagine having the ability to not only search online text files for specific words but also to search audio files for specific sounds. Thanks in part to Messiah College Engineering Professor Randy Fish, that technology is now patented.
Fish and a team of five others have spent the past seven years perfecting and patenting “audio hot spotting,” a search engine technology that allows users to search audio files for a specific word or phrase, a particular speaker, a speaker’s tone, or characteristics like laughter and applause.
This type of “audio hot spotting” might, for example, be helpful to a user who only wants to hear the portions of a speech that caused an audience to react with applause or laughter.
The challenge, according to Fish, was developing the artificial intelligence algorithms able to discern emotion in a voice, regardless of whether the voice is male or female, and to recognize applause and laughter generically.
Other systems attempt this type of audio searching, Fish says, but only this patented system gives users access to emotions and non-speaking sounds in addition to searching on what was said or who said it.

First application a success
The audio hot spotting technology was developed at a federally funded research center where Fish is a principle scientist. The center has already begun using audio hot spotting in military applications. As a matter of fact, Fish received a letter of appreciation from the Director of National Intelligence for his contribution to this technology.
While audio hot spotting could have broad appeal in the mass market, the patent is owned by the research center and is not yet available to the general public.
Patent process
The patenting process took longer than the development process, according to Fish. While the intricacies of developing and perfecting the technology took about three years, the patenting process took an additional four years. The five inventors were repeatedly called upon to defend how their particular tool was different and to disclose any similar technologies. “You have to first prove it’s possible, not just a good idea,” explains Fish, “then you need to prove that it’s unique”.

On November 10, 2009, Fish received word that the patent, United States Patent 7617188 for “System and method for audio hot spotting,” was approved. While he does not own the technology or stand to profit financially from its use, he’s still pleased to see the process completed.
What’s next?
According to Fish, “to doing something really new you need to immerse yourself in the problem”. To accomplish this Fish plans to travel with a team of Messiah students and educators from the College’s Collaboratory for Strategic Partnerships and Applied Research to Africa this summer to assess how artificial intelligence technologies might meet the needs of the disadvantaged in Africa. He’s eager to embark on a new project that will require his best creative thinking.
“Generally speaking, people who have a need don’t understand the technology, and people who understand the technology rarely understand the needs,” he observes. “People who see needs and know what’s possible are desperately needed.”

About Randy Fish
Fish has been chair of the engineering department at Messiah for two years. Prior to arriving in Grantham, he spent 14 years on the faculty at Eastern Nazarene College outside of Boston. He has dual undergraduate degrees: one in Physics from Eastern Nazarene College and a BSEE from Boston University, where he also earned his master’s degree. His doctorate degree is from the University of Washington.
His interest in artificial intelligence has landed him on several interesting projects, including a speech recognition project for Boeing and his current project perfecting handwriting recognition technology for an electronic medical record system.

Comments are closed.