our vision

We are living in a time where the lines are blurring between reality and science fiction,  where cars drive themselves, computers beat humans at Jeopardy and Go, and mobile phones translate Mandarin to English in real time.  Yet, our conversational interfaces -- the way we communicate with our devices -- are limited to brittle commands and queries; a far cry from natural dialogue with Samantha, Rosie, or C-3PO.  At GiantOtter, we are building a future where machines can participate in extended, coherent, context-rich conversations with people.

We envision a future where computers are not only assistants, but also coaches, companions, and confidants, who amplify our ability to get things done, facilitate behavior change, and enable us to reach our potential.  Along the way, we are tackling some hard problems.  We are developing new frameworks for artificial intelligence, capable of exploiting multiple representations of meaning, maintaining coherent dialogue over many turns, and explaining their own decisions.  Inspired by the ability of human children to learn language from few examples, we are building systems that use context to learn from sparse human dialogue data, and improve with subsequent evidence and human feedback.  This hybrid approach leverages human trainers, both to minimize deployment time, and to provide feedback enabling fluid transitions to automated interactions.  Our technology builds on 8 years of AI research at MIT, as well as concepts refined developing award-winning AI in the videogame industry.


in the press


our team

Matthew Desmarais
Director of Engineering

Sarah Laeuchli
Content Developer

Jeff Orkin, PhD
Founder / CEO

Dan Tomaschko
Co-founder / Business Development

Sr Software Engineer

Chris Ward
NLP Data Scientist

Jason Zayas
Art Director

Board of Directors

Jeff Orkin

Jeff Orkin

Jeff Orkin, PhD —  Founder / CEO

Jeff Orkin holds a PhD from the MIT Media Lab, where his research focused on simulating social interaction and dialogue from crowdsourced data in virtual environments.  Prior to MIT, Jeff spent a decade working in the videogame industry.  At Monolith Productions, Jeff led the development of award winning Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems for No One Lives Forever 2 (Computer Games Magazine: Best AI 2002) and F.E.A.R. (Gamespot.com: Best AI 2005, AIGameDev.com: #2 most influential AI game).  Jeff has served as a Contributing Author and Section Editor of the AI Game Programming Wisdom book series, and Associate Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Computational Intelligence and AI in Games. Widely recognized as a leader in the field of AI for games, Jeff regularly speaks at academic and industry conferences, and has published 25+ peer-reviewed articles about AI. Jeff holds a Master’s degree in Computer Science from the University of Washington and Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Tufts University with a minor in Studio Art.


Dan Tomaschko — Co-founder / Business Development

Dan began his career in management consulting, advising global Fortune 500 companies on a range of strategic initiatives over a span of six years. After years of helping his clients launch new products and improve their businesses, he left for MIT to build something from the ground up. He met Jeff and the team in early 2014 and immediately connected with the vision of group play and collaborative creation. The rest is history waiting to be written. 

Dan completed his MBA from MIT Sloan in 2015. He also holds a degree in Systems Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania.


Dan Tomaschko

Dan Tomaschko

The Giant Otter

The Giant Otter

The Giant Otter

The Giant Otter (Pteronura brasiliensis) is a six foot long mammal that lives in the Amazon jungle.  Living in an environment with the highest biodiversity in the world, Giant Otters have no natural predators. They have quicker reflexes than anacondas, are better swimmers than crocodiles, and eat piranhas for breakfast.  Giant Otters are social creatures who learn from each other and live in tight-knit extended families.  Unfortunately, due to habitat destruction from logging, farming, and mining, the Giant Otter is near extinction, with a wild population is fewer than 5,000.  If you want to help, consider educating yourself about the Giant Otter or donating to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).