Ray Kurzweil, inventor and author, is best known for developing technologies which would become the basis of today's industry-leading products in fields such as pattern recognition, text-to-speech, speech recognition, music synthesis, and optical scanning.
While still in high school, Kurzweil developed a program which would analyze famous pieces of music and recognize the underlying patterns of melody and harmony. In 1965, Kurzweil appeared on I've Got a Secret and performed a piece on the piano, leaving it up to a celebrity panel to discover that his program had composed the piece by applying the musical patterns to a new, original melody. This project would earn Kurzweil first place in the International Science Fair and a meeting with then-president Lyndon Johnson.
As a student at MIT, Kurzweil started a small business called the Select College Consulting Program, which used an extensive computer database of 2 million facts and 3,000 schools to match high school students with appropriate colleges.
In 1974, Kurzweil founded Kurzweil Computer Products and led a team to the invention of the first "omni-font" (any font) optical character recognition (OCR) system, now Xerox TextBridge. By defining the unique qualities which separate one character from another in any given font, Kurzweil's system could read nearly any printed text, regardless of font or printing quality. After developing the first charged coupled device (CCD) flat-bed scanner and the first complete text-to-speech synthesizer, Kurzweil's team combined the technologies and announced the first reading machine for the blind on January 13, 1976.
In 1982, Kurzweil founded Kurzweil Music Systems with Stevie Wonder, aiming to combine the rich, beautiful sounds of acoustic musical instruments with digital techniques such as multi-track sequencing and layering. In 1984, the company introduced the Kurzweil 250 (K250) the first synthesizer to realistically recreate the sound of acoustic instruments such as the grand piano.
Also in 1982, Kurzweil founded Kurzweil Applied Intelligence to focus on reliable speech recognition and introduced the first large vocabulary speech-to-text system to the public in 1987. The Kurzweil Clinical Reporter, which allows doctors to create medical reports by speaking to their computers, is used in ten percent of emergency rooms in the United States today.
Kurzweil's first book, The Age of Spiritual Machines, was published in 1990 by MIT Press. Kurzweil, now recognized as a leading authority on artificial intelligence, illustrates the past, present, and future of intelligent machines.
In 1996, Kurzweil founded Kurzweil Educational Systems, which develops a new generation of print-to-speech software and reading machines. One model, the Kurzweil 3000, scans a document, displays it on the screen, and highlights words as they are real aloud.
Kurzweil's latest book, The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence, was published by Viking Press (hardcover) in 1999 and Penguin (paperback) in 2000. Discussions ranging from trends in computer processing power to human intelligence being overtaken by artificial intelligence led the book to #1-ranked status in Amazon.com's "Science" and "Artificial Intelligence" categories.