On this Day:
In 1976, American inventor Ray Kurzweil and the National Federation of the Blind unveil the Kurzweil Reading Machine, the first omni-font optical character recognition system.
Raymond Kurzweil (born February 12, 1948) is an American inventor and futurist. He is involved in fields such as optical character recognition (OCR), text-to-speech synthesis, speech recognition technology, and electronic keyboard instruments. He has written books on health, artificial intelligence (AI), transhumanism, the technological singularity, and futurism. Kurzweil is a public advocate for the futurist and transhumanist movements and gives public talks to share his optimistic outlook on life extension technologies and the future of nanotechnology, robotics, and biotechnology.
Kurzweil received the 1999 National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the United States’ highest honor in technology, from President Clinton in a White House ceremony. He was the recipient of the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize for 2001. He was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering in 2001 for the application of technology to improve human-machine communication. In 2002 he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, established by the U.S. Patent Office. He has received 21 honorary doctorates, and honors from three U.S. presidents. The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) included Kurzweil as one of 16 “revolutionaries who made America” along with other inventors of the past two centuries. Inc. magazine ranked him #8 among the “most fascinating” entrepreneurs in the United States and called him “Edison’s rightful heir”.
Concurrent with Kurzweil Music Systems, Kurzweil created the company Kurzweil Applied Intelligence (KAI) to develop computer speech recognition systems for commercial use. The first product, which debuted in 1987, was an early speech recognition program.
Kurzweil started Kurzweil Educational Systems (KESI) in 1996 to develop new pattern-recognition-based computer technologies to help people with disabilities such as blindness, dyslexia and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in school. Products include the Kurzweil 1000 text-to-speech converter software program, which enables a computer to read electronic and scanned text aloud to blind or visually impaired users, and the Kurzweil 3000 program, which is a multifaceted electronic learning system that helps with reading, writing, and study skills.
Kurzweil sold KESI to Lernout & Hauspie. Following the legal and bankruptcy problems of the latter, he and other KESI employees purchased the company back. KESI was eventually sold to Cambium Learning Group, Inc.
In 1997, Ray Kurzweil was the chair of the board of Anthrocon.
In 1999, Kurzweil created a hedge fund called “FatKat” (Financial Accelerating Transactions from Kurzweil Adaptive Technologies), which began trading in 2006. He has stated that the ultimate aim is to improve the performance of FatKat’s A.I. investment software program, enhancing its ability to recognize patterns in “currency fluctuations and stock-ownership trends.” He predicted in his 1999 book, The Age of Spiritual Machines, that computers will one day prove superior to the best human financial minds at making profitable investment decisions. In June 2005, Kurzweil introduced the “Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader” (K-NFB Reader)—a pocket-sized device consisting of a digital camera and computer unit. Like the Kurzweil Reading Machine of almost 30 years before, the K-NFB Reader is designed to aid blind people by reading written text aloud. The newer machine is portable and scans text through digital camera images, while the older machine is large and scans text through flatbed scanning.
In December 2012, Kurzweil was hired by Google in a full-time position to “work on new projects involving machine learning and language processing”. He was personally hired by Google co-founder Larry Page. Larry Page and Kurzweil agreed on a one-sentence job description: “to bring natural language understanding to Google”.
He received a Technical Grammy on February 8, 2015, specifically for his invention of the Kurzweil K250.
Kurzweil has joined the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, a cryonics company. In the event of his declared death, Kurzweil plans to be perfused with cryoprotectants, vitrified in liquid nitrogen, and stored at an Alcor facility in the hope that future medical technology will be able to repair his tissues and revive him (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
I was worried that AI would take away my job.
But, as it turns out, I didn’t have to worry. Only an idiot would do my job…
Second, a Song:
The Kurzweil K250, manufactured by Kurzweil Music Systems, was an early electronic musical instrument which produced sound from sampled sounds compressed in ROM, faster than common mass storage such as a disk drive. Acoustic sounds from brass, percussion, string and woodwind instruments as well as sounds created using waveforms from oscillators were utilized. Designed for professional musicians, it was invented by Raymond Kurzweil, founder of Kurzweil Computer Products, Inc., Kurzweil Music Systems and Kurzweil Educational Systems with consultation from Stevie Wonder; Lyle Mays, an American jazz pianist; Alan R. Pearlman, founder of ARP Instruments Inc.; and Robert Moog, inventor of the Moog synthesizer.
Uma Pemmaraju presents this “Success Stories” excerpt about local Massachusetts inventor, Ray Kurzweil and his amazing machines courtesy of the Brigida Family and YouTube.com. This clip features Mike Brigida, Stevie Wonder and more…I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“Our intuition about the future is linear. But the reality of information technology is exponential, and that makes a profound difference. If I take 30 steps linearly, I get to 30. If I take 30 steps exponentially, I get to a billion.” – Ray Kurzweil
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Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky