Google's Page wants computers that understand their users

Responding to questions from Charlie Rose at a TED Q&A session, Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page shared to the crowd and to the world his vision of the future. And this involves, among other things, computers that are able to understand and perhaps do things that their owners aren't exactly good at.

"Computing's kind of a mess." This is Page's appreciation of the industry where Google plays a not insignificant role. The problem, among other things, is that computers are not aware of their users. At most, they can know their location, but not what the human is doing, what their needs are, and things like that. Larry's goal, which makes it Google's goal as well, therefore, is to make computers more aware of contexts in order to be of better help.

To this end, Google has gone through several initiatives. Just lately it announced Android Wear, which is its stab at the wearable device market. Perhaps closer to this goals is its purchase of AI startup DeepMind early this year. Employing speech recognition on a machine that went through the YouTube library, the machine was able to discover about cats on its own, taking it one step closer to human-level sentience. And, of course, one cannot forget about Google's foray into the automobile industry, which Page points out is near completion, with its driverless car having reached a 100,000 mile milestone.

But all this talk of intelligent computers will necessarily kick up everyone's favorite controversial topics: security and privacy. After all, Google is hardly a poster boy for those. But Page expressed his disappointment of the government over all the NSA brouhaha. Or to be more exact, he was disappointed that the US government did not engage them, Google and other implicated tech companies, into a discussion, saying that Google cannot protect its users from the government over something they weren't even aware of. Of course, NSA's senior lawyer just recently claimed that Google et al. were fully aware of the agency's data fishing expedition.

With all these myriad and seemingly disjointed projects going on all the same time, some might think that Google might be losing sight of its original goal, that of collating the world's knowledge and making it searchable. For Larry Page, search is still at the heart of Google's vision. But to successfully pull that off, one needs to have computers that can truly understand that world. And in that aspect, even after 15 years of being the business, Google is definitely not yet done.

Image courtesy of TED