Amidst the ever intensifying competition between Google and Apple, Google made an intuitive leap into an uncertain future by hiring noted futurist Ray Kurzweil. Kurzweil represents many different things. For those who don't know, Ray Kurzweil is often referred to as "the rightful heir to Thomas Edison."
Kurzweil's curriculum vitae includes being the principal inventor of the flatbed scanner, the first optical character recognition (OCR) system capable of recognizing any font, 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 to such fine detail that trained musicians could no longer discern the difference, and the first commercially marketed large-vocabulary speech recognition. If that were not enough, Kurzweil has also written 7 books -- 5 of which are national best sellers.
The Obvious Reason
Apple and Tim Cook were roasted in the press for the supposed premature replacement of Google Maps on the iPhone 5. Any product or marketing professional would have seen it as the only reasonable choice Apple could have made. The Google Maps product for the iPhone had become stagnant and was a liability when compared to the superior offering available on Android smartphones. The lack of turn-by-turn navigation itself was enough to warrant the replacement of the maps product. This little drama is but one shot in a war being fought on the fronts of voice recognition, speech processing and artificial intelligence.
Kurzweil is the man most synonymous with both one and all of these technologies and Google has now brought his brilliance in this space to bear.
A Little Less Obvious…
Upon hearing the news of Kurzweil's hiring, I was not surprised. Why should one be surprised given his pioneering status in areas being bitterly fought over? What has surprised me is the complete lack of coverage and commentary on the philosophical implications of Kurzweil's hiring.
Outside of the AI, voice, speech processing and text recognition breakthroughs made by Kurzweil, he is also known for his views on the future and his coining of the law of accelerating returns.