Barry Vercoe was born and educated in New Zealand in music and mathematics, and has a doctorate in Music Composition from the University of Michigan. In 1968 at Princeton he did pioneering work in the field of Digital Audio Processing, then taught briefly at Yale before joining the MIT faculty in 1971. In the 70s and 80s he pioneered the composition of works combining computers and live instruments, then on a Guggenheim Fellowship in Paris developed a Synthetic Performer—a computer that could listen to other performers and play its own part in musical sync, even learning from rehearsals. In 1992 he won the Computer World / Smithsonian Award in Media Arts and Entertainment, in 2004 gained the SEAMUS Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2006 the World Academy of Science Distinguished Achievement Award.
Barry was co-founder of the famed MIT Media Laboratory in 1984 where he has pursued research in Music Cognition and Machine Understanding. His Csound language is core of MPEG-4 audio—an international standard that enables efficient transmission of audio over the Internet. His students at MIT have created a string of digital audio innovations which have been commercialised by numerous companies in US and Japan. In 2006 Vercoe was the first investor in The Echo Nest, a Music Intelligence company founded by 2 of his MIT students. The Echo Nest was wholly acquired by Spotify in 2014 as its music intelligence engine.
Vercoe is co-founder and director of One Laptop per Child Australia, which has distributed more than 50,000 XO educational computers to remote schools in Australia and New Zealand. In 2007 he was keynote for the NZ Government’s Digital Future Summit.