This has been one of the biggest surprises of the trip, for two reasons, one because I could enter in the future house of Microsoft by the hand of one of its funders, who is also a professor of the Stanford University, in which I could see the Microsoft’s vision of robotics.
However, the best part was the privilege to meet and talk personally with Alex Acero, who is one of the best engineers that Microsoft has in its facilities and who works there from the year 1994. Alex Acero joined Microsoft Research in 1994, became manager of the speech grup in 2000 and since 2006 is currently a Research Area Manager directing an organization with over 50 researchers and engineers working on audio, speech, multimedia, communication, and natural language. Prior to joining Microsoft, he was the manager of the speech group at Telefonica Investigacion y Desarrollo (1992-1993) and a Senior Engineer at Apple Computer (1990-1991). He has 93 granted US patents.
Since 2000, Alex Acero is also Affiliate Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Washington and has taught Spoken Language Processing. He has participated in the PhD thesis committee of 7 students.
Alex got his Ph.D. in EE from Carnegie Mellon University in 1990, his MS from Rice University in 1987 and a Telecommunications Engineering Degree from the Universidad Politecnica de Madrid in 1985, all in Electrical Engineering.
His work, as he says, is to play while they pay him. We talked about voice recognition systems and artificial vision, which continue to be too far from those used by Qbo with the difference that the systems of Microsoft are far more trained than ours of course. To give you an idea its acoustic model consists of several hundreds of hours of training while Qbo uses the open source model of Voxforge that has no more than 50 hours, even though, every day, the number of minutes trained increases through the open-source recognition system Julius that is used by Qbo.
For the recognition and image processing used to make the Kinect recognize every movement patterns of a person, they recruited hundreds of people of all ages, heights, clothes, etc ., encountering many problems when some people wore for example a hat or skirt. And we may have talked for hours and hours. However Alex is someone who you know that exists but which is almost impossible to access to, so it was a real pleasure to meet and chat with him in person about robotics. Thanks Alex for your support to the project.