Re: Google 2015: What will it look like?

This in response to the post that Robert Scoble put up on his own blog a short time ago. I really resonate with the post – thinking about how Google may move is a favourite past-time of mine, as well as a handy thing for work. But I disagree with the main contention of Robert’s post, that they will end up being another disappointing Microsoft. Here are my thoughts, to add to the pile.

Google Dalmation

1) Voice Recognition

Google is one of, if not the best, company leading the global efforts to turn speech into text. It seems like a simple enough task, right? But it’s still very much driven by humans. Google have made great acquisitions (as well as hired a heap of great people) over the past 4-5 years to make this a reality.

Given there are 35 hours (at last count) of content uploaded to YouTube each minute, and all of those videos are machine translated by YouTubes still nascent captioning algorithm, points that they’ll crack this soon enough.

Also note their purchase of GrandCentral years ago (which has become Google Voice – also piping in speech-to-text learning’s for their algorithm) and you have a very powerful sandpit to play in. What’s more social than allowing everyone on the planet, disabled or not, to have access to speech that is translated into text?

2) Translation

Once you have speech-to-text nailed, then it becomes a simple step to say “well, couldn’t I translate my English, in real time, to another language?” Yes, I reckon you can.

If you haven’t checked out Google Translate for a while, you need to revisit it. They have a record number of language pairs figured now (french-to-english, french-to-spanish, etc etc).

Not only that, the common languages (Spanish, English, French, Mandarin) have a scarily human voice that will read your translation back to you. The Spanish one actually has inflection! A robot, speaking with inflections in their voice!

It’s 2011.

Eric Schmidt, when he was CEO, used to talk about how this could lead to better understanding of people around the world, leading to more chances of peaceful resolutions. I’m not saying Google will create ‘World Peace,’ but the ability of all of us to communicate the globe over easily is huge.

3) Mobile

Google, through Android, have been working on mobile for a while. But it’s still very early days for them. Once the marketplace and native apps catch up with the beauty of the iPhone, the utility of this will be immense. Google’s product mix of Google Latitude, Maps, Google Earth provides it with a beautiful sandpit, again, to play with new ideas to connect humanity. Pair this with the translation and speech to text stuff above, and you really start to see some pretty incredible stuff.

4) Google.Org

In the 2004 Founders’ IPO Letter, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, when discussing what has now become Google.org are quoted as saying;

“We hope someday this institution may eclipse Google itself in terms of overall world impact by ambitiously applying innovation and significant resources to the largest of the world’s problems.”

I think this could be a reality in 4 years/5 years. Consider Google is only a 10 year company, and they’ve just begun hiring specific people in different areas around the world to soley work on Google.Org projects. This is more of a darkhorse and perhaps a ‘gamble’ to claim it will be bigger than Google.com – but I feel that these sorts of projects could add significant dollars to Google’s bottom line. Don’t think about it in terms of what Google currently do now, but what they will have at their disposal with the benefit of time. Language translation, planetary data, satellites over Africa and many other things we probably don’t know.

I’m not saying that Google will continue to be the darling that is has been for the past decade. Certainly the gloss is off and it’s perhaps not the employment destination that it once was. But I think we need to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water. Google will remain one of the most important utilities on our planet for at least the next decade, and I reckon, even beyond that. Whether they ‘get social’ is neither here nor there for me.

8 thoughts on “Re: Google 2015: What will it look like?”

    1. Hehehe – Nice one. Yes, the Babel Fish is close!

      That’s a great question, what I want to see/feel from Google. I think I would like to see them take on smaller-yet-complex human issues in the 3rd World. They’re already doing a great job with their Crisis Response stuff, but I’m very curious to see how they move/shake when the 3bn people on this planet currently without the internet come online. I’d like to see them creating more simple digital artifacts in preparation for that.

  1. Very interesting reflections Steve. I agree with you in terms of your disagreement, I think that the founders saw the company going into that direction and made drastic changes. Of course, it’s yet to be seen if those changes have the impact they expect.

    The problems that Google is addressing with their understanding of language and voice through their vast data collections and smart engineers is phenomenal and I cannot wait to see how it’ll keep on transforming our world.

    1. Thanks Bruno – yes, you’re right. Whilst the technology is becoming more and more sound, it will be most interesting to see what they do with it. I’m glad people like @jaredcohen:twitter are there to help with that.

      As you say, time will be the ultimate judge🙂

  2. @stevehopkins:disqus  #its2011! ;) 
    Google translate blows me away – not only a remarkable service but it also one of those milestones toward living a Star Trek life.😉

    I remember at trampoline last year there was a discussion around ancient languages and whether we should be preserving them – what are the implications of a loss of diversity in language and communications?

    I wonder what the implications are for cross-cultural relationships with ubiquitous language translation services… Maybe we’ll see when #its2015.🙂  

  3. I disagree that Google or any of its ilk will bring about anything like closer connection, or world peace! Their method of creating is created from, and still based on disconnected people sitting in front of disconnected technology playing the 3.0 version of nerd wargames. Google’s only modus operandi is to take us all into this world so that their employees projection becomes reality and they do not have to work out how to process emotions and meet real flesh and blood people!

    To really make a difference in the world I am still waiting for the CEO of any major player to publicly announce a dismantling of what has been built and a strategic withdrawal from this drug called ‘online!’

    You know and get people off this 2D facsimile and back into a world that is fracturing further every moment … you know, the non-escapism one …
    the one here and now!

    1. @alivewithtony:disqus methinks your dualistic thought serves a purpose, however the holistic view is that online is part of offline… and vice versa (yin/yang), a required contrast. There is *no* us and them. There is just us. Our memes and genes are tightly coupled. When we can propagate innovation and ideas faster.. the offline you speak of benefits too. Any new and widely adopted technology causes disruption, fear, uncertainty and doubt. Passive consumption of media is possible in many mediums/spheres, however this medium encourages dialogue. Q.E.D.

      Some of us have spent years at either extreme online/offline and see a positive way forward. Society may indeed gorge and feast on breadcrumbs, signals and messages online… collective narcissism, indulging in escapism… however many of us are folding the tech back in to more holistic life practices whereupon community and awareness is enriched and not diluted.

      Your comments feel to me like that of someone who’s had negative experiences with technology, associated ‘tech’ people and organisations. Expectations of dismantling legacy will only result in more waiting, I hope you have a lot of patience🙂 Society has always been sick but the Internet is the biggest mirror we’ve ever turned on ourselves. The human condition is complex and when we learn how to take responsibility for our own learning and growing via our minds and hearts… we may realise that online serves us rather than the other way round. I’m no Google fanboy but sometimes bigger orgs have the gravity and ability to fund macro projects… sometimes individuals make a difference… perhaps you could reflect on:

      “To really make a difference in the world I am still waiting…” why wait?

      1. Very well said Donal.🙂

        Alive with Tony, I agree with Donal. Online/offline is very yin/yang. One doesn’t necessarily overcome the other, but instead augments the weaknesses of the opposite.

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