Richard F. Lyon
Richard Francis Lyon
1952 (age 68–69)
|Alma mater||California Institute of Technology|
|Awards||IEEE Fellow (2003)|
Progress Medal of the Royal Photographic Society (2005)
ACM Fellow (2010)
Richard Francis Lyon (born 1952) is an American inventor, scientist, and engineer. He is one of the two people who independently invented the first optical mouse devices in late 1980. He has worked in many aspects of signal processing and was a co-founder of Foveon, Inc., a digital camera and image sensor company.
Lyon grew up in El Paso, Texas, as the third of nine children. His father, an engineer for the El Paso Electric Company, brought home an early Fortran programming manual to encourage his family's members to explore their interests in electronics.
Lyon attended Caltech to earn a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, graduating in 1974. While at Caltech, Lyon worked with Carver Mead and John Pierce. He took a summer internship at Bell Labs, where he developed digital signal processing hardware for audio applications. He then enrolled in the graduate program at Stanford University intending to earn a PhD, but left with a master's degree in 1975 to work in Silicon Valley.
After Stanford, Lyon worked at Stanford Telecommunications, a small start up company developing signal sets for navigation satellites and space shuttle communication systems. During a return visit to Caltech around two and a half years after graduating, he ran into Carver Mead, who was hosting Ivan Sutherland and Bert Sutherland to develop some collaborations between Caltech and Xerox PARC and to develop a computer science department. Lyon joined Xerox PARC in 1977 after interviewing on invitation by Bert Sutherland.
Lyon started working at Xerox PARC with George White under Lynn Conway to build custom microchips for speech processing and digital filtering. Within the year, White left to manage the west coast laboratory of the ITT Defense Communications Division in San Diego, leaving Lyon in charge of the speech recognition project. During this period, he took a course at Stanford on biological information processing and wrote his term paper outlining an approach for speech recognition using a signal processing model of hearing. The paper became the basis for his career in hearing research.
In December 1980, Lyon was one of two people working independently who invented the first optical mouse devices. Lyon's design involved defining screen location using an adaptation of optical lateral inhibition to achieve a wide dynamic range.
Although several people at PARC had filed invention proposals for an optical mouse, none of them had built one or filed a patent for one. A substantially different design was invented at approximately the same time as Lyon's by Steve Kirsch at MIT.
In 1981, Lyon was one of the "Marty randoms" recruited by Jay Martin Tenenbaum to join Schlumberger Palo Alto Research. There, he led the speech recognition project.
In 1988, Lyon moved to the Apple Advanced Technology Group and led the Perception Systems group, where he worked mainly on auditory and sound processing. During this period he published a paper with Carver Mead describing an analog cochlea which modeled the propagation of sound in the inner ear and the conversion of acoustic energy into neural representations. The paper received the Best Paper Award from the IEEE Signal Processing Society in 1990 and formed a foundation for later work applying such models to hearing aids, cochlear implants, and other speech recognition hardware devices. With Malcolm Slaney, he developed the "cochleagram" representation for visualizing and processing sound for computational auditory scene analysis. With Larry Yaeger, Brandyn Webb, and others, he also developed the handwriting recognition system Inkwell for the Apple Newton.
During Apple's period of decline in the late 1990s, over half of the Advanced Technology Group was laid off as part of organizational restructuring, including Lyon and his team. He began working with Carver Mead and Richard B. Merrill to develop digital color photography and co-founded Foveon as a spin-off company from National Semiconductor and Synaptics. At Foveon, Lyon became its chief scientist and vice president of research, and helped develop a three-CCD camera and later the Foveon X3 sensor, which placed three stacked photodiodes onto a single chip – an innovative alternative to the more typical approaches of using either beam splitting with three sensor arrays or a spatial mosaic scheme such as Bayer filter mosaic. In 2005, Mead, Lyon, and Merrill received the Progress Medal of the Royal Photographic Society for the Foveon X3 sensor.
In 2006, Lyon returned to corporate research, moving to Google after briefly considering Yahoo. His research at Google has involved managing the camera development for Google Street View and sound recognition for various Google products. Most recently, he taught a course in 2010 at Stanford University and wrote a book, Human and Machine Hearing: Extracting Meaning from Sound, published in 2017.
Lyon is married to Margaret Asprey; they have two children.