What do you spend money on when you have it all? According to Bill Gates, you spend it on the future: The Microsoft CEO has pledged to double the company’s investment in research and development to $4 billion a year. The announcement was made as Gates expressed concern over Federal cutbacks in research to the American Association of Science on Monday.
“There is an under-investment in research,” he said, “If you look at the overall level of investment in research, the fact that it’s not increasing is rather disappointing—and surprising...I’m a big believer in research. Research is everything.”
Gates said that the majority of Microsoft’s research will go toward computer systems that understand human speech, language and vision. They are also trying to get computers to “learn” in the same way that humans can learn. He demonstrated a computer running Microsoft software that could recognize and respond to the user’s eye movements. Joking about defects in the current generation of speech recognition, he says that the speech recognition group at Microsoft is known internally as the “wreck a nice beach” group.
“Every product we make will be obsolete in a few years,” he said. “It’s just a question of—do we make it obsolete, or does someone else?