Google's Schmidt gleeful at 3D-capable personal robots

Google chairman Eric Schmidt has presented his vision of the future and technology, describing a world where people have their own personal robot that can represent them remotely and from which they can see a remote 3D visual stream. "We're beginning to see science fiction become a reality" Schmidt said during his MWC 2012 keynote. "Look at Star Trek or, my favorite, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy."

As Schmidt described it, people would have access to compact telepresence robots, small enough to carry in a bag and deploy at will. They would then be able to beam back a 3D picture to a portable 3D-capable screen, part of huge mesh networks of devices talking to each other. "We can look forward to a future of essentially unlimited speed and unlimited processing power ... tiny, powerful sensors will be embedded in everything. By 2020, fiber networks will be deployed in every city."

Still, Schmidt also pointed out that technology is not delivered to every potential user equally, and highlighted that it's a "digital caste system." Those at the top of the pile will get devices only limited by developers' imaginations and the laws they operate within.

"I think that people will experience the future in different ways. The first future will apply to the ultra-connected ... those with the will and resources to embrace new technology. They're the few ... for this group the limits are only what science can develop and what society deems acceptable" Eric Schmidt, chairman, Google

When, exactly, we can expect these personal robots, Schmidt didn't say, only that he envisaged it coming "soon." Perhaps they're already trundling around inside Google's secret X Labs.