Ray Kurzweil joins Google as director of engineering

The famed futurist will focus on machine learning and language processing, he says on his Web site.

Ray Kurzweil at SXSW
Ray Kurzweil

Ray Kurzweil, the famed inventor and futurist, said today that he would join Google, starting Monday, to work on "some of the hardest problems in computer science."

Kurzweil's title will be director of engineering. In a long statement on his Web site, he said he would focus on machine learning and language processing:

"I've been interested in technology, and machine learning in particular, for a long time: when I was 14, I designed software that wrote original music, and later went on to invent 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.

"I'm thrilled to be teaming up with Google to work on some of the hardest problems in computer science so we can turn the next decade's 'unrealistic' visions into reality."

Google confirmed the news and said Kurzweil's long history of invention would prove useful.

"Ray's contributions to science and technology, through research in character and speech recognition and machine learning, have led to technological achievements that have had an enormous impact on society," Peter Norvig, Google's director of research, said in a statement. Norvig cited the Kurzweil Reading Machine, used by Stevie Wonder and others for having words read aloud to them. "We appreciate his ambitious, long-term thinking, and we think his approach to problem-solving will be incredibly valuable to projects we're working on at Google."

 

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