Portrait of Alex Fiannaca

Alex Fiannaca

Senior Research Engineer


I’m a Senior Research Software Development Engineer working on the MSR NExT Enable Team where we are developing exciting new technologies for and with people with disabilities. I’m currently working on the Microsoft Soundscape project and have worked on several Hands-Free projects in the past.

In Spring of 2016, I received my second M.S. in Computer Science and Engineering while in the Ph.D. program in the Allen School for Computer Science at the University of Washington. I was co-advised by Maya Cakmak (Human-Robot Interaction) and Richard Ladner (Accessibility) and collaborated with Merrie Ringel Morris here at Microsoft Research. My master’s qualifying exam was based on the AACrobat system I built at MSR in the summer of 2015. In AACrobat, we attempted to address many of the current communication issues in Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) for people with neuromuscular diseases like ALS by redesigning an AAC system from a groupware perspective. This work was presented at CSCW 2017. Following up on this work in the summer of 2016, I developed a “voicesetting” system for AAC users in an attempt to enable AAC users to control the emotional and expressive features of their synthesized voices. This work will be presented at CHI 2018.

In Spring of 2014, I graduated with my first M.S. in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of Nevada, Reno. My master’s thesis research surrounded the development of assistive technologies related to spatial perception for people with visual impairments. This involved two major projects published at Graphics Interface 2013 and ASSETS 2014.

Prior to my work in computer science, I earned a B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Magna Cum Laude) from UNR, and before that, I graduated Valedictorian from Spanish Springs High School in Sparks, Nevada.