In the early part of his career, Zue conducted research in acoustic phonetics and phonology, codifying the acoustic manifestation of speech sounds and the phonological rules governing the realization of pronunciation in American English. Subsequently, his research interests shifted toward the development of spoken language interfaces to make human-computer interactions more natural. Between 1989 and 2001, he led the Spoken Language Systems Group at the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science, which has pioneered the development of many systems that enable a user to interact with computers using spoken language.
Zue's current research interests are in the area of applying human language technologies to enable easy access of structured and unstructured information from the Web, especially in application areas such as education and health care.
Zue is a fellow of the Acoustical Society of America, and a fellow of the International Speech Communication Association. He is also a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, and an Academician of the Academia Sinica.
Presented annually by the Okawa Foundation for Information and Telecommunications, the Okawa Prize is intended to pay tribute to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the research, technological development and business in the information and telecommunications fields. Past MIT winners of this award include Professor Tomaso Poggio.
The prize includes a certificate, a gold medal and a 10 million yen cash award.