At this weeks TED technology conference, Google CEO Larry Page outlined his vison for the internet giant’s future, with robots, driverless cars, Wi-Fi balloons and hands free searches featuring in his plans.
In an onstage interview with veteran TV newsman Charlie Rose at the TED ideas conference this week, Page outlined a Google-built version of the coming decades that could wind up becoming everyday reality for all, if the company’s earlier successes are any indication.
Discussing he recent web spying scandal, Page described governments’ secret digital surveillance as “disappointing”.
“It is not possible to have a democracy if we have to protect our users from the government.”
However, the Google CEO went on to describe some areas that would benefit from making personal data more open in digital from, and argued that anonymised medical records should be made available to doctors and researchers.
“We are not thinking about the tremendous good that can come with sharing information with the right people in the right ways,” he said. “It could save 100,000 lives this year.”
As well as the privacy chat, Page agreed that “speech recognition is not very good”, reiterated his belief in the mad-sounding Project Loon, explained that the automated cars project came about because he had to wait for a bus in the snow once, and urged businesses to invest in crazy-sounding tech.
Voice search still limited
Page discussed Google’s effort to harness the momentum that’s moving away from desktop search and directing it into other products the company can use as platforms for its advertising business.
Page said that using computers is still a “clunky” experience. “Computing is kind of a mess,” he said. “Your computer doesn’t know where you are. It doesn’t know what you’re doing. It doesn’t know what you know.” To change that, we need better search.
Page described setting machine-learning algorithms loose on YouTube’s immense video catalogue and watching the computer “learn,” without any prior awareness, not only that this thing called a “cat” was important to people, but how to create a composite image of one.
Discussing whether Google is still living up to its ‘Don’t Be Evil’ mantra, Page said: “Most people think companies are basically evil. They get a bad rap. And I think that’s somewhat correct.
Companies are doing the same incremental thing that they did 50 years ago, 20 years ago. That’s not really what we need. Especially in technology, we need revolutionary change, not incremental change.”
Page said that Google plans to launch its automated cars on the roads by 2017 and the project has been a personal obsession of his or 18 years.
“It started when I was at college in Michigan. I was waiting for the bus and it was cold and snowing,” he said.
He believes that automated cars can help save lives – currently 20 million people are injured each ear in car accidents and in the US crashes are the biggest cause of death for the under 35s.
He finished the interview with a call to firms to embrace new technologies.
“Most businesses fail because they miss the future,” he said.
It is a mistake he has made himself, he added.
He said that he “felt guilty for wasting time” working on the Android operating system, which at the time was a side project for Google.
“That was stupid, it was the future,” he said.