-Google’s top inventor says talking computers are the future.

Posted: January 4, 2010 in 2010, Articles
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Silicon Republic:

Google’s top inventor says talking computers are the future.

Future computing and mobile interfaces driven by artificial intelligence, speech recognition and machine vision are consuming the time of Google’s top inventor, he told siliconrepublic.com.

Google’s director of research Peter Norvig, who was in Ireland last week to give the prestigious Boole Lecture at the University of Cork, is the man behind the Google Search product we know and use today, driving the core web search algorithms in the world’s biggest internet company as well as leading the team that created Google Translate.

He joined Google in 2002 as director of search quality – a pivotal time in the company’s development where it enjoyed 10-fold growth, evolving from a curious start-up to the online advertising and software giant it is today. Prior to joining Google Norvig was NASA’s top computer scientist and would have worked on the Remote Agent and Mars Exploration Rovers.

Norvig co-wrote with Stuart Russell Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach, a best-seller and considered the definitive book on the subject.

I asked Norvig how Google goes about invention and what fires up Google’s researchers to create and develop new technologies. “I think we are always reinventing things, which I think is good,” he says candidly. “You always try to attract the best people and you can’t attract a person whose job is to just maintain something that was built 10 years ago. The top people don’t want to do that, they want to invent their own.

“We’ve been lucky enough, the growth has been so fast that every couple of years we’ve had to throw out something and start from scratch. You have to tell someone:, for your first year work on this and next year we’ll need something 10 times bigger so why don’t you try that. And that’s a challenge.

“That’s the kind of thing people get excited about. We’ve been able to reinvent, throw out what we had before. In terms of size of the web and the number of documents we have, that’s been growing exponentially in terms of our users, it’s been growing and I guess also in terms of the speed of the response.

“When I started we created a new index of the web every month. And I thought that was a lot compared to a library card product which we had been thinking of ourselves as being like. They didn’t update and we thought we were pretty good. And then we said people started to search for news on Google and we said now we’re going to have to update every day and hour and now with tweets it’s every minute. We’re driven by the fact that we’ve got to have more users, more documents and more speed.”

I asked Norvig about the challenge of keeping a clean and simple search product at a time when it seems more information will be generated in the next year than during the entire history of mankind and when it seems that by next year 50pc of all traffic on the internet will be video and the next 1bn users of the web will be via mobile.

“We’ll do more with indexing the actual content of the video. We started out just searching the keywords of the video and now we’ve started doing speech recognition of the spoken word in the videos and over time we’ll start pulling out objects –this has a car in it that’s in a car chase. That’ll be a challenge.


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