BYU Column: Students, creator of Alexa develop software to preserve Cambodian stories

By recording nearly 5,000 life stories during the past few years, Brigham Young University’s Cambodian Oral History Project has brought to light many narratives long suppressed by the trauma of the late 1970s Khmer Rouge regime, during which nearly 2 million Cambodians were killed or died.

When BYU alumnus and speech recognition expert Jeff Adams — who was the lead designer of Amazon’s Alexa before starting Cobalt Speech and Language — saw BYU’s story about the project this past summer, he reached out to the team to see if they were interested in interviewing the Cambodian people he had served with in his Latter-day Saint church congregation in Massachusetts.

During the conversation, Adams learned that 2,000 of the recordings had already been laboriously transcribed by hand, with 3,000 to go, and “a light bulb went off.”

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