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Maryam Modir Shanechi

Engineering student is hoping to change how we interact with computers

Two-finger typists may be able to thank Maryam Modir Shanechi when advances in speech-recognition software eliminate their need for keyboards. For three years, Shanechi, an engineering science student at U of T, has conducted award-winning research in the field of signal-processing and communications in the hope of changing the way we interact with computers.

After completing two years in engineering science at the University of Tehran in Iran, Shanechi and her family immigrated to Toronto in 2001. Shanechi enrolled at U of T, and, after just one year, won a prestigious Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) undergraduate scholarship.

The next year, Shanechi garnered a second NSERC scholarship to conduct research in U of T’s state-of-the-art Artificial Perception Laboratory. Working with Parham Aarabi, an assistant professor in the electrical and computer engineering department, Shanechi experimented with different microphone arrangements to enable computers to recognize and separate voices in a noisy environment. She used digital cameras attached to plasma screens to allow computers to recognize hand gestures, instead of relying on the movements of a computer mouse. “It’s all different flavours of making it easier to interact with machines,” she says.

In the fall, Shanechi, 23, will continue her research and pursue a PhD at the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

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