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The Rapport Report

June 9th, 2021

Meet Our New Machine Learning Interns: Carol and Jinhong

by Madeline Ostrander
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It’s officially summer, which means we have some fresh faces joining our summer internship program. We are excited to welcome Carol and Jinhong to the Machine Learning team at Rapport. They will be working with Dimitri Palaz, Director of Machine Learning, to develop new models for generating facial expressions and head movement. Ultimately, their research will help to drive more accurate facial animation and emotional state detection technology at Rapport, providing end users with more natural interactions with AI interfaces that are capable of understanding their needs better than a standard chat bot.

“We are so excited to have Carol and Jinhong on board,” said Dimitri. “We were able to expand our internship opportunities this year to allow for a second position, which will help us continue to test the waters of what is possible through machine learning and pursue new research into creating more human-like animation for digital characters.” 

The entire team is looking forward to working alongside Carol and Jinhong, but in the meantime, we wanted to take an opportunity to get to know them a little better:

Meet Carol

Carol is currently pursuing a Master of Science Degree in Speech and Language Processing from the University of Edinburgh. Prior to joining the Rapport team, Carol interned for an internet company in China. This internship with Rapport is her first opportunity working for a UK-based company, and she can’t wait to get started. 

What will you be working on during your internship with Rapport?

I am currently working on my Master of Science dissertation project. The goal of my dissertation is to build a smile detector that can predict if a subject is smiling based only on voice/audio input rather than video input. This smile detector will help create better emotion recognition in AI interfaces and will ultimately be used in facial animation as well.

What interests you about the world of AI and machine learning?

I’m very interested in all things speech related, but mostly text-to-speech technology, automatic speech recognition, and multimodal approaches in speech technology (utilizing a combination of audio and text data for machine learning). 

What are you most looking forward to during your internship?

I am looking forward to building my problem-solving skills within a technology start-up environment, as well as gaining first-hand experience working for a company building cutting edge technology. I’m excited to be a part of such a creative and lively team as Rapport, where I get to work alongside a bunch of brilliant people and learn all that I can from them.

Time for some more personal questions! Many people have taken on new skills during the pandemic, whether that was baking bread from scratch, learning TikTok dances, or diving into a new software/program. Are there any new skills you have picked up this past year?

Baking and cooking! During the pandemic, I became a big fan of baking bread and cakes from scratch. I found I spent more time in the kitchen, cooking new meals and snacks. I even challenged myself to find recipes from my favorite restaurants and tried to recreate my favorite dishes at home. 

I especially loved getting to share my food and baked goods with my friends. It helped us to feel connected throughout this unusual year.

And finally, what is your favorite animated film or show?

My favorite animated film is “How to Train Your Dragon”.

A great choice! We are wishing you the best of luck as you work on your dissertation, Carol. And we look forward to seeing the final project!

Meet Jinhong

Jinhong is a third year Ph.D student at the University of Edinburgh. Previously, he was a speech engineer intern for a live-streaming company. He worked on projects related to music recognition technology. Jinhong is excited to leverage his past work experience in his new internship with Rapport’s Machine Learning team. 

What will you be working on during your internship with Rapport?

I am working in speech-driven head motion generation. Basically, it is teaching a digital character to appear more human-like when interacting with a site visitor. This is achieved through collecting data of people speaking, studying subtle movements like nodding, tilting their head, glances to the side, and similar motions.

What interests you about the world of AI and machine learning?

Artificial intelligence and machine learning is still a black box—not everything we could possibly know has been made known, and we have no way of knowing how much left there is to still learn. On the one hand, it makes it hard to dissect problems, but on a more positive note, I am excited by the opportunity to discover the infinite possibilities of it all.

What are you most looking forward to during your internship?

I genuinely hope the work I am doing can help make small changes in the world, and help make it a better place. The goal of Rapport is to create a more familiar and human digital world. I’m glad to be a part of that. 

Many people have taken on new skills during the pandemic, whether that was baking bread from scratch, learning new TikTok dances, or diving into a new software/program. Are there any new skills you have picked up this past year?

I would say working from home has been an opportunity to learn a completely new way of working. I have been spending so much more time meeting teammates and classmates virtually, and using that as a chance to collaborate on other research projects rather than just sticking to my own topic. I have really benefited from the ability to learn from others and gain new perspectives along the way. 

And our last question, what is your favorite animated film or show?

I would say my favorites are “Naruto” and “Detective Conan (Case Closed)”.

Make sure to check back over the summer—we’ll be sharing updates on the great work Carol and Jinhong will be doing with the Machine Learning team. Are you considering implementing digital characters into your product, app or website? Click here to sign up for early access to Rapport and stay up to date on the latest news. 

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