Rohit Prasad: The Indian engineer who is the brain behind Alexa
Alexa, who is your creator? “I was invented by Amazon.” That’s Alexa’s normal response to the question. What she doesn’t reveal is that the person who breathed life into Alexa, and led the technology side of the project almost from its inception five years ago, is Rohit Prasad, an engineer from Ranchi, Jharkhand.
Prasad, together with his colleague Toni Reid who focuses on the consumer experience side, was No. 15 on Recode’s list of 100 people in tech, business and media who mattered in 2017.
Jeff Bezos, Susan Fowler, Mark Zuckerberg, Tim Cook, Sundar Pichai, Elon Musk and Satya Nadella were among the 14 people ahead of him. Recode said Prasad and Reid had made Alexa a household name.
India-born Rohit Prasad was ranked No. 9 (and Reid No. 10) in Fast Company’s 100 most creative people in business in 2017. Fast Company said Prasad and Reid had turned Alexa into a “category-defining consumer experience.”
Prasad still has family in Ranchi and visits the city once every year-and-a-half. Last week was one of those visits. On Thursday, he spent nearly an hour talking to TOI on phone from the Jharkhand capital. “My dad used to work for Mecon, my grandad for HEC (Heavy Engineering Corp), so I have had three generations here,” he says. He’s the kind who makes you feel comfortable. “I still follow The Times of India. It’s my No. 1 news source for understanding what’s going on in India,” was the second line of the conversation. Prasad studied at DAV High School. For engineering, he had multiple offers, including from IIT-Roorkee. He chose Birla Institute of Technology (BIT), Mesra, in Ranchi. “I decided to stay closer home,” he says.
He completed his electronics & communication engineering in 1997, and then went to the Illinois Institute of Technology, US, for an MS in electrical engineering, where he did novel research in low bit-rate speech coding for wireless applications. That’s probably where his interest in speech recognition began.
For the next 14 years, he was at BBN Technologies, an R&D arm of defence company Raytheon. BBN was one of the founding sites of ARPANET, a predecessor of the internet.
It was also one of the leading R&D sites for speech recognition, natural language understanding and machine learning in general, and Prasad was deputy manager for that business unit, leading a multidisciplinary team of researchers, developers, and program managers on large-scale government-and commercially-sponsored projects.
In 2013, he moved to Amazon to use the same skills to try and revolutionise how customers interact with Amazon’s products and services.
Two years ago, he was redesignated head scientist of Alexa artificial intelligence. “The journey has been exciting. If you look at five years back, talking to a device from a distance, in the midst of a lot of noise, was just science fiction. We grew up in the Star Trek era, that was the inspiration for us,” he says.
Captain Kirk and the crew giving voice commands, like “Give me warp speed,” instead of pressing buttons or navigating a menu.
原创翻译：三泰虎 http://www.santaihu.com/45636.html 译者：Joyceliu
Majority of our Politicians have poor innovative skills except they will super innovate to loot the county with their corruption techniques innovation skills. So if this engineer would have got a job in India he would have ended in a routine job wasting his skills. Reservation should be abolished as it is more than 70 years since independence. Will the looting politicians abolish reservation??? doubtful as this serves their vote gathering purpose.
John Jani Janardan - Hamunaptra - 5 hours ago -Follow
He must be thanking his stars he left this country early after his undergraduate and never experienced the ordeal of woking in India that his dad and grandad had to endure. India rewards mediocrity and corruption and punishes integrity and merit. So very very few educated and creative people will have any nationalistic feelings for this wretched land and people.
satwinder singh - 5 hours ago -Follow
Alexa, why do people leave india?
Human Voice - 5 hours ago -Follow
what is the point he is American, if he would have been in Ranchi either he would be a corrupt engineer or Chara chor
Rop Hod - 4 hours ago -Follow
This shows that Indian mind with hard work can excel in an atmosphere which encourages excellence. India is changing for the better, albeit slowly. That''s the way democracy works. More Make in India, with research to make better products, which can be sold worldwide, is the way to go for consumers.
Anthony - goa - 53 mins ago -Follow
In India he did not get job because his deserving post was given to some useless reservation category people.