"Sultan of Sound" and MSU EE Graduate to Visit Department

Dr. James L. Flanagan
(© 2005 IEEE)

National Medal of Science winner, Dr. James L. Flanagan, will visit the ECE Department on November 30. He will be discussing opportunities in the telecommunication area with faculty, visiting with students, and presenting a 3:00 P.M. seminar on multimodal communication.

Dr. James L. Flanagan was born in Greenwood, Mississippi in 1925. Though World War II interrupted his plans for an engineering education, experience with electronic applications gained while serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps intensified his desire to become an electrical engineer. In 1948, Flanagan began that process by obtaining his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Mississippi State University. He was encouraged by Harry Simrall to continue his education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received his masters degree in 1950. After teaching at Mississippi State for two years, Flanagan returned to MIT and acquired his doctorate in 1955. This was the foundation for a remarkable journey to becoming one of the most renowned engineers in the world.

In 1956, Flanagan began his work, on defense applications of acoustics synthesis, for Bell Laboratories. There, he helped to facilitate the digital signal-processing field by converting analog communications data to digital with the use of computer technology and filters. He also aided in the devising of the phase vocoder and researched the possibilities for future use of speech imitation and recognition technology, as well as tactile interfaces for network computers. Flanagan, the author of a foundational text in his field, Speech Analysis, Synthesis and Perception, also holds fifty patents, and has approximately 200 technical publications.

In addition to the National Medal of Science, Dr. James Flanagan has received the L.M. Ericsson International Prize in Telecommunications, the Edison Medal of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the Medal of the European Speech Communication Association, and The Gold Metal of the Acoustical Society of America. Flanagan is a Fellow of IEEE, the Acoustical Society of America, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Sciences.

Flanagan's current interests include evolving techniques for multimodal communication. While he feels that we have made progress with sounds, vocabulary, grammar, and even semantic relationships, physical gestures and realistic positional information are missing. Or as he is quoted from the May issue of IEEE

© 2005 IEEE

Spectrum article Sultan of Sound (http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/may05/1117), "If I'm looking at a display and gesturing, speaking, and pointing to indicate that I want to move this to there, what is the vocabulary for representing all that? How do you get meaning from this combination of things? How do you do the equivalent of speech recognition? How do you synthesize that?"