Portrait of Bill Dolan

Bill Dolan

Partner Research Manager


I am a partner research manager in Microsoft Research, where I manage the Natural Language Processing group. My undergraduate degree is from UC Berkeley, and my Ph.D. is from UCLA Linguistics. I joined MSR in 1992, and most of my work since then has focused on semantic processing.

A fundamental research interest has been “the paraphrase problem”: when do superficially dissimilar strings of words convey essentially the same meaning?

On its way to an extended mission at Saturn, the Cassini probe on Friday makes its closest rendezvous with Saturn’s dark moon Phoebe.
The Cassini spacecraft, which is en route to Saturn, is about to make a close pass of the ringed planet’s mysterious moon Phoebe.

Learning to identify and generate such alternations is key to developing applications that appear to understand human language. I have also been active in helping establishing the Recognizing Textual Entailment challenges , which address a closely related problem. In addition, I’ve worked extensively on Machine Translation, managing the Microsoft Translator team from its inception until 2011.

Most recently, my work has focused on modeling language “grounded” or “situated” in the real world:

  • Learning dialog models that tie linguistic utterances to specific changes in machine state
  • Linking crowdsourced natural language descriptions to visual objects and actions

I’m particularly interested in imbuing machines with the linguistic means to react to environmental changes, and in allowing humans to alter the state of the world (real or virtual) with language.