By the time he graduated Ray Kurzweil's career as an inventor was well underway and in 1974 he started the company Kurzweil Computer Products, Inc. During this time he created technologies which we rely on today - the first software for transforming written word into data (optical character recognition OCR), the first print-to-speech software for the blind and the first text-to-speech synthesizer as well as the first flatbed computer scanner to make it all possible.
Inspired by a growing friendship with Stevie Wonder he went on to create a new type of music synthesizer which could accurately duplicate the sound of real instruments.
Kurzweil continued to invent and then sell his companies, often staying on as a consultant while developing his ideas about the future impact of artificial intelligence on mankind. He has written seven books to date, including The Age of Spiritual Machines 1998 in which he claims that in the near future, computers will make better investment decisions than humans and The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology 2005 which was made into a film and a full-length documentary called The Transcendent Man. In The Singularity Is Near Kurzweil argues that accelerating technologies mean the definitions between human and machine are becoming blurred. leading ultimately to a new civilization in which we transcend our biological limitations.
The Singularity is also the name given to the day in 2029 that Kurzweil says technology will be able to think for itself.
In 2009, he unveiled The Singularity University, an institution that aims to "assemble, educate and inspire leaders who strive to understand and facilitate the development of exponentially advancing technologies."
His website KurzweilAI.net has over two million readers. He is chairman and chief executive officer of Kurzweil Technologies and is married with two children.
Ray is also director of engineering at Google.
Ray Kurzweil has an abundance of startling ideas and predictions about the future which he delivers with a level of clarity and detail that make him utterly believable.
Born in 1948 Ray Kurzweil was brought up in the New York City borough of Queens, his father was a musician and his mother was an artist. He was taught the basics of computer engineering by his uncle and wrote his first computer programme at the age of 15. In high school he created a pattern-recognition software programme that analyzed the works of classical composers, paving the way for a range of startling technological breakthroughs and inventions.
In 1970 he got a BSc in Computer Science and Literature from MIT having invented and then sold a computer programme for matching high school students to colleges while he was there.
As one of the leading inventors of our time, Ray was the principal developer of the first CCD flatbed scanner, the first omni-font optical character recognition (OCR), the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the first text-to-speech synthesizer, the first music synthesizer capable of recreating the grand piano and other orchestral instruments, and the first commercially marketed large-vocabulary speech recognition.
A commercial version of the Kurzweil OCR was used by Lexis and Nexis to build their online legal and news information services and Ray sold the company to Xerox. Today, the OCR - now called Xerox TextBridge - continues as a market leader. His music system also continues today as one of the market leaders in computer-based musical instruments, marketed in more than 40 countries.
The Kurzweil system of voice recognition is now used in ten per cent of the emergency rooms in the United States and in many other medical specialities and Ray's print-to-speech reading technology received the Stevie Wonder 'Product of the Year' Award.
Ray Kurzweil is best known for presenting a thought-provoking, long-term, big-picture view of the future of technology and its implications for society; explaining the exponential growth of technology (what he calls, "The Law of Accelerating Returns") and its path towards ubiquitous computing, reverse engineering the brain, full immersion virtual reality, nanotechnology, the merging of human and machine, and ultimately extreme human life extension. He describes a bright future in which technology will provide solutions to the most pressing social, economic, and environmental problems. These ideas form the core thesis of his lectures.
"Kurzweil's eclectic career and propensity for combining science with practical -- often humanitarian -- applications have inspired comparisons with Thomas Edison." - Time
"The ultimate thinking machine."- Forbes