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'At his urging,' Ng says, he fiddled with these concepts on his home computer.

At age 16, he wrote a program to calculate trigonometric functions like sine and cosine using a 'neural network' - the core computing engine of artificial intelligence modeled on the human brain.'It seemed really amazing that you could write a few lines of code and have it learn to do interesting things,' he said.

Until then, computer scientists had mostly relied on general-purpose processors - like the Intel chips that still run many PCs.

His Stanford team began publishing papers on the technique a year later, speeding up machine learning by as much as 70 times.

Geoffrey Hinton, whose University of Toronto team wowed peers by using a neural network to win the prestigious Image Net competition in 2012, credits Ng with persuading him to use the technique.

The work was 'inspiring and exciting,' recalls Pieter Abbeel, then one of Ng's doctoral students and now a computer scientist at Berkeley.

Abbeel says he once crashed a ,000 helicopter drone, but Ng brushed it off.'Andrew was always like, 'If these things are too simple, everybody else could do them.''Andrew Ng poses at his office in Palo Alto, Calif.

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