2016 SLA graduate Akira joined the corporate world for a position that draws on the expertise he developed as a PhD student. A few months before defending his dissertation, Akira applied for the position at Amazon after finding the job posting on the Linguist List. Little did he know that Amazon had been looking for someone like him for a while: a Japanese and English bilingual with a background in theoretical linguistics.
What is Akira doing at Amazon? He is working to make Amazon Fire TV and Amazon Echo (and Alexa) smarter. As a Language Engineer, Akira works with people who do transcription and initial language data analysis to help set conventions, such as how to transcribe numbers or language-specific punctuation so that the machine can understand them.
Though the details of many of the projects he’s working on are confidential, Akira works on the feature expansion team in the area of speech and language data processing. One example of this is the search function on the Amazon Fire TV. Linguists have worked to better the Fire TV search experience by making the machine understand commands that are closer to human language. The Amazon Fire TV now understands more complex verbal phrases, instead of just noun phrases, making the search experience more natural.
Perhaps the best thing about his job is that Akira learns new things every day, surrounded by smart people.
We look forward to hearing more reports from Akira in his life at Amazon!
–Jennifer Gray, current SLA student