The virtual assistant has been a concept in development ever since the early 1970s when the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency first began working on speech technology.
Today, we have artificial intelligence in devices like Alexa that not only understand what we say but can take action and respond to our requests and orders, almost like a human.
Alexa was launched in 2014 alongside the smart speaker, Amazon Echo, which promised to be a dutiful virtual assistant. And the product did deliver on its promise with about 2.4 million pieces being sold by 2015.
The development of Alexa is a pioneering feat in the development of AI and the team behind it is lead by Indian engineer Rohit Prasad along with his colleague, Toni Reid.
Rohit Prasad has numerous accomplishments to his list, and it’s worth knowing about the brains behind one of the most advanced technological feats of our times.
- Rohit Prasad became the Vice President of Alexa Machine Learning and Speech for Amazon in May 2016.He currently leads the research and development in speech recognition, natural language understanding, and machine learning technologies to enhance customer interactions with Amazon’s products and services.
- Rohit joined Amazon in 2013 as the Director of Machine Learning, where he worked at the infamous Amazon Lab126.Lab126 is known for developing hardware like Amazon Kindle, Fire TV and so forth. Here, Rohit was tasked with the objective of innovating how customers interacted with Amazon’s products and services.
- Before 2013, Rohit had honed his technical skills at BBN Technologies, a high-technology company which has been credited for finding the ancestor of the internet–ARPANET.He worked at BBN Technologies for 14 years in R&D in speech recognition, natural language understanding and machine learning. He progressed in the company from a Staff Scientist in 1999 to Deputy Manager and Senior Director of Speech, Language, and Multimedia Technologies in 2011, before joining Amazon in 2013.
- He acquired his MS in Electrical Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology. It is here that he acquired his interest in speech recognition. His research for the programme involved low bit-rate speech coding for wireless applications.
- Before moving to the USA, Rohit studied at the Birla Institute of Technology in Ranchi, Jharkhand, where he graduated in Electrical and Communication Engineering. Rohit hails from Ranchi, where his family still resides.
- Rohit Prasad was ranked at Number 9 in Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business in 2017. Not only that, Rohit, along with his colleague, Ried made, it to the Recode List of 100 People in Technology, Business and Media who mattered in 2017.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)