In the 2018 installment of the Darsh T. Wasan Lecture series, Illinois Tech is proud to welcome distinguished alum Rohit Prasad as the main speaker. As the mind behind Amazon’s Alexa artificial intelligence (AI) virtual assistant, Prasad will be presenting his lecture, “The Story of Alexa: AI for Daily Convenience” on Monday, November 12, beginning at 3 p.m. in the Hermann Hall Ballroom.
Prasad hails from the city of Ranchi, the capital of the Indian state of Jharkhand. After earning his undergraduate degrees in electronics and communication engineering from the Birla Institute of Technology (BIT), Mesra, in 1997, Prasad then came to Illinois Tech to pursue his master’s of science in electrical engineering at the Armour College of Engineering. After spending over a decade working with BBN Technologies, one of the organizations involved with ARPANET, a predecessor to the modern Internet. Specifically, Prasad served as the deputy manager and senior director of the Speech, Language, and Multimedia Business unit, directing U.S. government-sponsored research on speech-to-speech translation, language understanding, and machine learning.
In 2013, Prasad moved to Amazon to apply those same skills to the ways customers interact with retail products and services. Here, he would become the designated head scientist of Alexa AI. In a July 2018 article in the Times of India, Prasad stated that this process has “been very exciting. If you look at five years back, talking to a device from a distance, in the midst of a lot of noise, was just science fiction.” We grew up in the ‘Star Trek’ era. That was the inspiration for us.” His current work on Alexa sees Prasad continuing to try to make interactions with the system “a magical experience for customers.”
The Darsh T. Wasan Lecture series is named after Illinois Tech Vice President of International Affairs and University Distinguished Professor Darsh T. Wasan. A member of Illinois Tech faculty since 1964, Wasan has made it clear to TechNews that “all students are invited to attend the lecture,” as well as the reception afterwards. Prasad’s lecture will be held at 3 p.m., with a reception at 4 p.m. on Monday, November 12 in the Hermann Hall Ballroom. This event is free and open to the public, with business attire recommended. Registration can be done online at alumni.iit.edu/wasan.
Photo courtesy of Illinois Tech International Affairs