- The Indian American is a world leader in speech recognition and a visionary in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics.
Raj Reddy, professor of Computer Science and Robotics and Moza Bint Nasser Chair in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), is among Computer History Museum’s (CHM) 2021 Fellow Award honorees. Reddy, a world leader in speech recognition and a visionary in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, was recognized for his lifetime of achievement in computing and technology.
“Being selected to be a Fellow of the Computer History Museum seems like you have become an antique,” Reddy told CMU. “I guess when you have been working with computers for over six decades you do become ancient.”
Over a five-decade teaching career, “Reddy has influenced thousands of students, many of whom have gone on to make vital and important contributions to computer science, artificial intelligence, and robotics,” CHM says. “In particular, they have made seminal contributions to speech recognition, analysis of natural scenes, autonomous robotic systems, and universal access to information.”
Reddy founded and led the Robotics Institute in 1979, the first robotics department at any U.S. university. In 1998, CMU became the first university in the world to offer a PhD in robotics and in 1991 Reddy became Dean of the School of Computer Science, a position he held until 1999. As dean, he helped create a number of groundbreaking centers and institutes related to language, human computer interaction, automatic learning, and software research.
Reddy developed the first system capable of recognizing continuous speech, and his research team developed many of the concepts underlying modern commercial speech recognition technology. These ideas were adopted in a variety of applied artificial intelligence systems.
Reddy’s research interests extend beyond speech recognition to include robotics, human-computer interaction, innovations in higher education and efforts to bridge the “digital divide,” particularly for people in developing nations. He initiated CMU’s autonomous vehicle program, which subsequently has spawned numerous innovations.
Reddy also created the The Universal Digital Library, a free, online digital library that includes more than 1.5 million volumes, with book digitization centers in China, India, Egypt and the United States. He was instrumental in establishing in 2008 the Rajiv Gandhi University of Knowledge Technologies, which enrolls thousands of low-income, gifted youth from rural southeastern India.
Reddy’s contributions to science and statesmanship were recognized in 2006 by the National Science Board, which presented him its prestigious Vannevar Bush Award. In 1984, France awarded Reddy the Legion of Honor for his work in developing countries. He received computer science’s equivalent to the Nobel Prize, the Association for Computing Machinery’s Turing Award, in 1994 for his contributions to artificial intelligence.
Reddy received a BS in civil engineering from the College of Engineering in 1958, Guindy; an MEng from the University of New South Wales, Australia in 1960; and a PhD in computer science from Stanford University in 1966. He was a graduate student of AI legend and cofounder John McCarthy, under whom he studied speech, language, vision, and robotics.
After working for IBM Australia from 1961–1963, he began his PhD that year at Stanford University, graduating in 1966 and teaching there immediately after. He moved to Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in 1969, where in 1973 he became a full professor and a university professor in 1984. He is a cofounder of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence, was its president from 1987–1989, and is a winner of the 1994 ACM Turing Award.
Over its three-decade history, previous winners of the CHM Fellow Awards include Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak, NASA mathematician and “hidden figure” Katherine Johnson, creator of Java James Gosling, software pioneer Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, semiconductor pioneer Gordon Moore, and world wide web creator Tim Berners Lee.