PORTLAND, Ore. -- Ray Dolby, an American inventor and audio pioneer who founded Dolby Laboratories, has died at the age of 80.
The company said Thursday that Dolby died in his home at San Francisco. He had been living with Alzheimer's disease for several years and was diagnosed with acute leukemia this summer.
Dolby founded his namesake company in 1965 and grew it into an industry leader in audio technology. His work in noise reduction and surround sound led to the creation of a number of technologies that are still used in music, movies and entertainment today. The innovations also turned Dolby into a rich man with an estimated fortune of $2.3 billion, according to Forbes magazine.
"Today we lost a friend, mentor and true visionary," Kevin Yeaman, president and CEO of Dolby Laboratories, said in a statement.
Yeaman said that Dolby invented an entire industry around delivering an experience in sound. His work ranged from helping to reduce the hiss in cassette recordings to bringing "Star Wars" to life on the big screen in Dolby Stereo.
Dolby held 50 U.S. patents and won a number of notable awards for his life's work, including several Emmys, two Oscars and a Grammy.
He was awarded the National Medal of Technology from President Bill Clinton and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in the U.S. and the Royal Academy of Engineers in the U.K., among other honors. In 2012, the theater that serves as home to the Academy Awards was renamed the Dolby Theatre and the Ray Dolby Ballroom was named in his honor.
"Ray really managed to have a dream job," said Dagmar Dolby, his wife of 47 years. "Because he could do exactly what he wanted to do, whichever way he wanted to do it, and in the process, did a lot of good for many music and film lovers. And in the end, built a very successful company."
Dolby was born in Portland, Ore., and his family eventually moved to the San Francisco peninsula. It was there that he started his professional work at Ampex Corp. working on videotape recording systems while he was still a student.
After graduating from Stanford University, he left Ampex to study at Cambridge University. Following his time as a United Nations adviser in India, he returned to England and founded Dolby in London. In 1976, he moved to San Francisco where the company established its headquarters.
Dolby's co-workers described him as inspiring and thoughtful man, who cared passionately about engineering.
"To be an inventor, you have to be willing to live with a sense of uncertainty, to work in the darkness and grope toward an answer, to put up with the anxiety about whether there is an answer," Dolby once said.
He is survived by his wife, Dagmar, his sons, Tom and David, their spouses, Andrew and Natasha, and four grandchildren.
Dolby and his wife were active in philanthropy and supported numerous causes and organizations. The Ray and Dagmar Dolby Regeneration Medicine Building at the University of California, San Francisco's Stem Cell Center and the Brain Health Center at California Pacific Medical Center were opened with their support.
His family described Dolby as generous, patient, curious and fair.
"Though he was an engineer at heart, my father's achievements in technology grew out of a love of music and the arts," said Tom Dolby, son, filmmaker and novelist. "He brought his appreciation of the artistic process to all of his work in film and audio recording."
Corning's 'A Day Made of Glass...'
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Nokia Kinetic Device
Though <a href="http://events.nokia.com/nokiaworld/" target="_hplink">the Nokia World 2011 Conference</a> was held to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/26/nokia-lumia-800-videos_n_1032335.html" target="_hplink">announce the Finnish handset-maker's new Windows Phones</a>, a lot of the conversation from bloggers centered on Nokia's Kinetic Device, a prototype of a smartphone that was operated by bending and twisting (rather than pinching-to-zoom, which dominates today). <a href="http://www.engadget.com/2011/10/30/samsung-to-offer-flexible-displays-in-2012-challenges-nokia-to/" target="_hplink">Samsung recently announced</a> that it is preparing to release flexible devices in 2012; so, if you're in the market for a smartphone, get ready to twist again, like we will next year. Worth watching, if only to hear the adorable Nokia engineer proclaim, "I'M FROM FINLAND, AND WE HAVE LONG, CHILLY WINTER."
While we wish this video had been <a href="http://youtubedoubler.com/?video1=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch?feature%3Dplayer_embedded%26v%3Db3txQs7jEJ4&start1=&video2=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch?v%3D3ArhZPYplFk&start2=&authorName=gilbertjasono" target="_hplink">synced up with a certain unforgettable Ludacris single</a>, this concept laptop can roll out like paper towels, power supply and all.
After showing off that Kinetic Device at Nokia World 2011, Nokia <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/10/nokia-humanform-future-smartphone-video_n_1086517.html" target="_hplink">followed up with this thought-piece</a> of a video, which displayed a graphically-rendered futuristic smartphone called "HumanForm." Like the Kinetic Device, it emphasizes bends, twists and touch buttons all over the place (on the front, on the side, on the back -- <em>everywhere</em>).
Microsoft's 3D HoloDesk
This video has no sound, but it doesn't really need any: Just LOOK at what's going on inside Microsoft's prototype HoloDesk, which, besides being a great tool to practice juggling, also looks like a neat way to learn physics and work on on tactile projects with remote collaborators.
Paper-Thin Concept Smartphone
In May we got a glimpse of this paper-thin concept smartphone, which through the use of bending and a nifty printed circuit board was able to act simultaneously as mp3 player, cell phone and, with its thinness, bookmark.
Vision Of The Future From 3M
3M's vision of the future includes a flexible and transparent gaming device, a really cool-looking washing machine and even a Connect Four made of clear glass. No, don't drop that red piece there! Ah, shoot. Too late.
OmniTouch With Touchscreens On Any Surface
Using technology from the Kinect gaming system, a research team made of developers from Microsoft and Carnegie-Mellon University revealed in October that they've come up with a system that can turn virtually any surface into a touchscreen. <a href="http://www.technologyreview.com/computing/38933/" target="_hplink">Per MIT's Technology Review</a>: <blockquote>OmniTouch works by bringing together a miniature projector and an infrared depth camera, similar to the kind used in Microsoft's Kinect game console, to create a shoulder-worn system designed to interface with mobile devices such as smart phones</blockquote>
Smartphone With Pico Projector
This one is a little more imminent and much more realistic, as it actually exists. Check out this smartphone rigged up with a pico projector that puts your Android or iOS interface on any surface you please. Right now the thing is a little bulky to jam into your jeans pocket (especially if you're wearing skinny jeans) but <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/18/apple-patents-concepts-designs_n_925401.html#s328317&title=3D_Holographic_Projector" target="_hplink">if Apple's 2006 patent proves fruitful</a>, this one could be right around the corner.
Microsoft Future Vision
Microsoft is not shy about releasing its vision of a techie future, and this Future Vision might be its most grandiloquent statement yet. Behold this seamlessly edited look at how the company envisions its products to evolve in the office, in the home and on the go. <em>Minority Report</em> comparisons abound. I, for one, can't wait to get my multilingual eyeglasses.