Dustin Smith, MIT Media Lab Alum and Startup Founder, Dies at 31

Xconomy is sad to report that Dustin Smith, an artificial-intelligence expert and co-founder of Boston startup Beansprock, has passed away at the age of 31.

Smith died unexpectedly on Feb. 14. He had been diagnosed with a heart condition known as hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy (HOCM) more than 10 years ago, but his friends and family didn’t know he was in imminent danger, according to an obituary.

I got the news from Smith’s co-founder at Beansprock, Cameron Levy. I had met Smith and Levy a few weeks ago at their Boston office for a story about their company’s launch. Beansprock makes software that uses natural language processing and machine learning to find job matches for engineers.

Smith did his PhD at the MIT Media Lab, studying under Henry Lieberman, Marvin Minsky, and Agustín Rayo. With Beansprock, he was part of the E14 Fund’s first class of student startups in 2013-14.

In the acknowledgments of his PhD thesis, Smith wrote that the MIT Media Lab “has given me tremendous freedom and support over the years and exposed me to people with amazing passion and enthusiasm.” The last sentence of his thesis abstract reads, “The day where we will routinely talk to our computers in unconstrained natural language is not far off.”

Memorial services are planned for Sunday, Feb. 22, and the following day in Smith’s hometown of Darien, CT, plus an additional service on March 11 in Houston, TX, where he also has surviving family members.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and Editor of Xconomy Boston. E-mail him at gthuang [at] xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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