I’m a postdoctoral researcher at UC Davis.
My research investigates how individuals engage with voice-activated artificially intelligent (voice-AI) systems, such as Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri.
I was recently awarded an NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship with co-PIs:
- Dr. Georgia Zellou (PI: UC Davis Phonetics Lab, Dept. of Linguistics)
- Dr. Zhou Yu (PI: UC Davis Language and Multimodal Interaction Lab, Dept. of Computer Science)
- Dr. Katharine Graf Estes (PI: UC Davis Language Learning Lab, Dept. of Psychology).
You can read more about the project here!
Together, with Dr. Georgia Zellou, Ph.D. student Bruno Ferenc Segedin, and undergraduate Cathryn Snyder in the UC Davis Phonetics Lab, I have worked on a series of studies investigating the phonetic adjustments speakers make when talking to voice-AI systems. We recently published papers showing that speakers display socially mediated patterns of vocal alignment toward Siri and Alexa (e.g., gender in Cohn, Ferenc Segedin, & Zellou, 2019) and even emotional alignment toward a voice-AI system (e.g., Cohn & Zellou, 2019). Additionally, we observed differences based on a speaker’s cognitive processing style, measured by the Autism Quotient, in how they spoke to Siri and human voices (Snyder, Cohn, & Zellou, 2019).
We have also explored whether there are distinct Siri- and human adult-directed speech registers. You can see me present on one of the projects (“Phonologically motivated phonetic repair strategies in Siri- and human-directed speech”) in the 5 Minute Linguist competition at the 2019 Linguistic Society of America (LSA) annual meeting. See below for the video (2:30 John McWhorter introduction, Talk 3:23-7:31).
I am also collaborating with Dr. Zhou Yu on projects related to the Amazon Alexa Prize chatbot, Gunrock. We were thrilled when Gunrock won the 2019 Amazon Alexa Prize! We recently published two papers: a paper on large-scale user study on TTS cognitive-emotional expressiveness (Cohn, Chen, & Yu, 2019) and a demo paper on the Gunrock system (Yu et al., 2019).
When I’m not researching, organizing the LSA Summer Institute, teaching undergraduates, or helping put on workshops, I enjoy adventuring with my Jack Russell-Corgi mix, Bonzai. Some of our favorites are hiking in the Tahoe Forest, swimming in the Pacific Ocean, and enjoying the beautiful rose gardens at McKinley Park in Sacramento.