Tom Williams


I am a PhD Candidate in the Human-Robot Interaction Lab at Tufts University, studying under professor Matthias Scheutz.
This semester (Spring 2017) I am also employed as a Teaching Fellow (i.e., Lecturer) at Tufts University.
I will be joining Colorado School of Mines as an Assistant Professor of Computer Science in Fall 2017

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As natural language capable robots and other agents become more commonplace, the ability for these agents to understand truly natural human speech is becoming increasingly important. What is more, these agents must be able to understand truly natural human speech in realistic scenarios, in which an agent may have uncertain or partial knowledge of its environment.

As such, I am interested in developing cognitively inspired architectural mechanisms which will allow robots to understand natural language in uncertain and open-worlds. My work towards this goal has primarily focused on the problem of reference resolution (i.e., identifying the objects, locations, people, etc., referenced by interlocutors in conversation) with a secondary focus on the problems of referring expression generation> (i.e., determining what properties to use to refer to target referents), and pragmatic understanding and generation (i.e., identifying the intentions underlying human utterances, and choosing utterances to communicate a robot's intentions).

Through my work on these two problems, I am (1) developing a natural language understanding framework that allows robots to engage in more realistic task-based dialogue with their human teammates, and (2) developing computational models of human natural language understanding.

My OS of choice is Ubuntu. My language of choice is Scala. I prefer to travel by foot, while reading a good book. I'm passionate about sharing my knowledge, and aspire towards a career in academia.

williams@cs.tufts.edu