The Future of Search and the Internet of Everything According to Google’s Scott Huffman

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In a recent interview, Google engineering director, Scott Huffman, shared his vision of the future—a future when interacting with technology will be more like having a conversation and typing queries into a box will be all but obsolete.

Instead of keyboards, we’ll have microphones and speakers in the ceiling recording conversations and giving answers to direct questions, like the Star Trek computer.

Aside from providing pure information, such a system would be the ultimate personal assistant. Combining flight times from an email with your current location to time unrequested reminders, like, “It’s time to go to the airport, now, Mr. Dorrier.”

Huffman cites cheap computing as the ultimate driver behind such a shift. Microchips and sensors will be in everything. You've heard it before, but what Huffman's really describing is the algorithmic glue binding the Internet of Things.

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Embedded microphones will make search more anticipatory and conversational.

His voice-activated network would tie together control of all our devices. We might, for example, tell the AI in our ceiling to turn on the porch light, pull up a show on TV, and pre-heat the oven.

Or we might ask Google to look up a restaurant for lunch, and the system not only talks you through the options, but inputs directions into your (yes, you guessed it) self-driving car which ferries you to a delicious Thai meal across town.

Enabling all this will be a more natural, human form of communication. Google is gunning to make natural language processing, like IBM Watson, a central component of their services. Computers will understand the nuances of what we’re asking and reply in a natural, conversational manner.

If you’re already leery of the deal here, that giving up personal information in exchange for Google's services may not be such a bargain—Huffman is quick to interject, “We take privacy and security very seriously. Our goal is to keep users’ information private and use it in a way that helps that user.”

Of course, what else is he going to say? Though the Snowden affair has forever tarnished such promises, Huffman believes that when customers weigh the costs and benefits, the net result still falls in Google’s favor.

“When I ask Google for travel information during my trip it draws it out using my hotel confirmation email. So I’m trusting Google with that information and in exchange I’m getting that value.”

Already, users readily allow Google Maps to draw “anonymous” location information to provide traffic data. And many willingly give Google access to other information too, like web searches and email.

But would you give Google access to your thoughts?

Huffman isn’t shy discussing the end game here. The ultimate outcome isn’t ceiling microphones, it’s a microchip embedded in or near your brain reading electrical signals and inferring words and commands directly from the source.

Huffman may be first in line. "I don’t have a microchip in my head—yet," he says.

Image Credit: Robert Scoble/Flickr

Jason Dorrier

Jason is managing editor of Singularity Hub. He cut his teeth doing research and writing about finance and economics before moving on to science, technology, and the future. He is curious about pretty much everything, and sad he'll only ever know a tiny fraction of it all.

Discussion — 3 Responses

  • Facebook - noneya.biznazz January 2, 2014 on 12:48 pm

    Your attempts at whipping this into a frothy mixture of conspiracy theory and tech-based orgasm have failed.

    Google isn’t the NSA. They aren’t a security branch of the government. One entity fucking you over doesn’t mean every other entity will. Have some goddamn objectivity will you?

    Google already knows what kind of pr0n you like, so really, what else is there to be worried about? Your money? They have tons and tons of it.

    Are you really so arrogant as to think your piddly little life is worthy of outside scrutiny?

    Its not. Enjoy the tech, stop scaremongering the Fox News crowd.

    Honestly, the thing that scares me the most about the possibility of a Kurtzweil-esque digital afterlife is that such monumental genius will go into making a device that in the end will only be used to make recordings of really really stupid human beings.

  • Vector January 2, 2014 on 10:11 pm

    Make no mistake about, the potentially infringing and harmful risk of governmental and criminal entities is today and will be tomorrow something we must all take into careful consideration for our own sake and for the sakes of our children when regarding personal information submission and availability. There are some who would with no compunction do you much harm were they to be given a chance to do so. This quite obviously does not mean that such bad things will immutably happen with utter pervasiveness. It just means that the risk is there and may be exacerbated when such technological capabilities are more available to potential abusers should we choose to implement no adequate safeguards against such things. The bottom line is this: technology is a double-edged sword, one which keeps getting sharper and more durable. To avoid any undesirable harm to ourselves or others, we must learn of its potential wonders and dangers, and handle it with care, consideration and wisdom so that all of our progeny may continue indefinitely in tranquility and prosperity. And this will occur, should we employ the use of technology with proper social science which considers all humans as possessing basic inalienable and equal worth.

  • eyeswideopen January 5, 2014 on 12:04 am

    OMG @ noneyabusiness…..
    U truly must live in a blinkered world.
    If U are unable to see the connecting of dots with reference to what Google which is the Public Face — the pretty face — of the darker agencies that are all aiming for Transhumanism. Why do you think Ray Kurzweil was so accurate in his predictions?
    Looking Glass — the glass tech that Google is using comes from the Looking Glass (LG) technology – which enables future seeing of ‘probable’ timelines.
    Sure I know many will ask why/how I say this.
    But hey! there’s enough evidence on the Net to show where this is leading, but then if you want to live ‘blinkered’ then by all means, whatever gets you through the day/night/life.

    But we will bow (or will we?) to the power of Technology – the True God system.