6 Tech Products Invented by AAPI Technologists

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6 Tech Products Invented by AAPI Technologists

May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and the 2024 theme is all about paying homage to AAPI leaders who’ve driven progress through innovation.  

From groundbreaking inventions to transformative advancements, AAPI individuals have played a pivotal role in shaping the technological landscape of America. Despite facing cultural and systemic challenges, AAPI innovators’ resilience and a pioneering spirit has revolutionized industries and enriched society. 

As we celebrate AAPI Heritage Month, we want to recognize and honor the trailblazers who invented and developed technology that’s part of our everyday lives. Read on to learn about the AAPI people who helped to build everyday tech products and tools. 

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Chieko Asakawa 

Home Page Reader 

Chieko Asakawa revolutionized online accessibility by inventing the Home Page Reader (HPR), a web-to-speech system that allowed people with vision impairments to navigate the internet effortlessly.  

Chieko, who lost her sight at 14, created the HPR in the late 90s, just as the internet was taking off. “I really wanted to be independent,” Chieko told the National Inventors Hall of Fame. “I wanted to be freed from relying on someone. That helped me innovate new technologies.” 

More recently, Chieko worked on an AI-powered suitcase that uses IBM Watson to help people who are blind navigate indoor and outdoor environments.  

Amar Bose 

Industry standard stereo speakers 

When Amar Bose graduated from MIT with his PhD in electrical engineering, he rewarded himself by buying a new hi-fi stereo system. There was just one problem: the sound quality wasn’t up to Amar’s standards. Like any resourceful technologist, he started to research acoustics and speaker design in his spare time, convinced there was a better way.  

This hobby eventually led to the invention of the 901(R) Direct/Reflecting(R) speaker system, one of the first stereo loudspeakers to utilize the space around them instead of reproducing sound as if in a vacuum. It was a game-changing discovery and the catalyst for Amar to found Bose Corporation in 1964. Today when you rock noise-canceling headphones at your desk or fire up your TV’s sound bar, you can thank Amar Bose.   

Ajay Bhatt 

USB 

Before cloud technology and Bluetooth was the norm for storing files and pairing devices, your computer needed multiple “drivers” to connect to peripheral devices. Not only was this tedious, but it could also change your operating system and applications. In 1996, Ajay Bhatt invented a tool to streamline the process: the Universal Serial Bus, aka USB.  

Ajay was inspired by electrical wall outlets, and created a connection interface that could automatically recognize new devices and translate their signals into a centralized message stream for the computer’s operating system. “We had a vision to bring about a profound change to the computer industry,” Ajay told Fortune in 2019. “That’s what my motivation was as a Computer Scientist.” 

There’s a good chance you have drawers full of USB cords and old flash drives — billions of USB devices have been made worldwide. Interestingly, Ajay never made any money from inventing this ubiquitous device. Intel, his employer at the time, decided to make the USB open and royalty free when they adopted it.  

Chan Yeh 

Electronically processed Chinese language 

Chan Yeh was a computing pioneer who made it possible to process Chinese characters on a computer. Chan developed an automatic Chinese photo-typesetting system called the IPX that translated bitmaps of Chinese characters into codes that a computer could easily store. 

Chan’s innovative approach, born from a blend of technological expertise and deep cultural understanding, transformed Chinese printing, making it less tedious and more accessible.  

An Wang 

Programmable electronic calculators  

In 1964, Computer Scientist An Wang developed one of the first programmable electronic calculators, the “logarithmic calculating instrument” or LOCI. This desktop machine featured nine different digit keys and various arithmetic and mathematical operation keys that enabled people to perform calculations in milliseconds with just the press of a button. The LOCI, which initially cost $6,500, also paved the way for programmable calculators (looking at you, TI-84).  

Ching Wan Tang 

OLED 

Organic light emitting diode or OLED is the technology that makes pixels on flat panel screens (from your smartphone to your Nintendo Switch to your car radio display) glow so you can see vibrant colors and high-quality graphics. Chemist Ching Wan Tang, along with Steven Van Slyke, invented the organic light-emitting device and organic bilayer solar cell, which was the basis for OLED technology.  

“Usually, you don’t discover something that’s totally unexpected,” Ching Wan told the National Inventors Hall of Fame. “You must be thinking about the problem all the time, even in your sleep. You just try mentally, one way or another, or in the lab… and you keep thinking about it. And then somehow the door crack[s] open, and that’s discovery.”