Curtis R. Carlson became president and CEO of SRI International in December 1998. Previously, he spent more than 20 years with Sarnoff Corporation, a wholly owned SRI subsidiary.
In 1973, Carlson joined RCA Laboratories, which became part of SRI in 1987 as Sarnoff Corporation. As head of Ventures and Licensing at Sarnoff, he helped found more than 12 new companies. He started and helped lead the high-definition television (HDTV) program that became the U.S. standard and in 1997 won an Emmy(R) Award for outstanding technical achievement for Sarnoff. Another team started and led by Carlson won an Emmy(R) for Sarnoff in 2000 for a system that measures broadcast image quality. In 2007, Carlson was named chairman of Sarnoff's Board of Directors.
He has been on numerous public and private boards, including Nuance Communications (computer speech recognition), Pyramid Vision (computer vision), Sensar (iris biometric identification), and Sarif (LCD displays). He serves as co-chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Singapore National Research Foundation.
In 2007, Carlson was given the Medal of Excellence Award for Alumni Lifetime Achievement by Rutgers University's School of Engineering. Also in 2007, he was given the Herbert F. Taylor Alumni Award for Distinguished Service by Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). In 2006, he won the Otto Schade Prize for Display Performance and Image Quality from the Society for Information Display with Dr. Roger Cohen. In 2002, he received the Dr. Robert H. Goddard Award from WPI for his professional achievements. Carlson was a visiting distinguished scientist at the University of Washington in 1998. He is a Kobe ambassador for SRI’s contributions to Kobe, Japan.
Carlson has served on many government task forces, including the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board, the U.S. Army Research Laboratory Technical Assessment Board, and the Defense Science Board task force on bio-chemical defense. He was a member of the original team that helped create the Army's Federated Laboratories. He was a founding member of the National Information Display Laboratory (NIDL) at Sarnoff, a new model for government-industry technology development and commercialization, which grew into the National Technology Alliance.
Carlson has published or presented more than 50 technical publications and holds fundamental patents in the fields of image quality, image coding, and computer vision. He has written a book with William Wilmot called Innovation: The Five Disciplines for Creating What Customers Want, published in 2006 by Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House. Innovation describes how SRI's unique process for innovation can be applied to all types of commercial and nonprofit enterprises, including the government.
Carlson received his B.S. in physics from WPI and was named in Who's Who Among Students. His M.S. degree and Ph.D. degree in atmospheric physics are from Rutgers University. In 2006, he received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from WPI. He is a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Sigma Xi, and Tau Beta Pi. Carlson played the violin professionally at 15, and it remains his primary avocation.