Michele Masterson

Speech Tech Guru Ray Kurzweil Joins Google

Ray Kurzweil has confirmed that he is joining Google as director of engineering to work on new projects involving machine learning and language processing.

Kurzweil is the founder of several companies including Kurzweil Applied Intelligence (KAI). In 1982, the company began to develop computer-based speech recognition, and in 1987 introduced the first commercially marketed, large-vocabulary speech-recognition system. KAI also combined its speech recognition technology with expert systems for the creation of medical reports. The Kurzweil VoiceMed products, (now called Kurzweil Clinical Reporter), allows doctors to create medical reports by talking with their computers. The Kurzweil systems are now used in 10 percent of the emergency rooms in the U.S. and in many other medical specialties. KAI continues today as part of ScanSoft (originally Kurzweil Computer Products, Inc.).
“I’ve been interested in technology, and machine learning in particular, for a long time: [I] invented the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, among other inventions. I’ve always worked to create practical systems that will make a difference in people’s lives, which is what excites me as an inventor.
“In 1999, I said that in about a decade we would see technologies such as self-driving cars and mobile phones that could answer your questions, and people criticized these predictions as unrealistic. Fast forward a decade—Google has demonstrated self-driving cars, and people are indeed asking questions of their Android phones. It’s easy to shrug our collective shoulders as if these technologies have always been around, but we’re really on a remarkable trajectory of quickening innovation, and Google is at the forefront of much of this development.”