Google CEO Eric Schmidt took the stage at Berlin’s IFA conference to deliver the show’s closing keynotes. The full video is available here (it’s a little over an hour), and here are some of the highlights.
The idea of “information at your fingertips.” Schmidt gave the example of a tourist using a smartphone to find his way to a particular historic building via the phone’s navigation software, and then using the phone’s camera and object recognition software to relay information about that particular building to the tourist. “You can know literally everything,” said Schmidt. “It’s fantastic. And this is only going to become more pervasive.”
Where Search is Going
Search is personal, according to Schmidt. The next step for search is to be able to find things for you automatically based on your likes. Said Schmidt:
“When I walk down the streets of Berlin, I like history. What I want is for my computer—my smartphone—to be doing searches constantly. Did you know? Did you know? Did you know? This occurred here. This occurred there. Because it knows who I am, it knows what I care about, and it knows roughly where I am.
This notion of autonomous search—the ability to tell me things I didn’t know but am probably very interested in—is the next great stage, in my view, of search.”
Google’s Hugo Barra showed off Android’s “Voice Actions” (see previous coverage on Techland), including voice-dictated text messages, web searches, navigation commands, and music controls.
Barra also demonstrated the mobile version of Google Translate, which allows you to type or speak phrases to be instantly translated into one of 50 different languages. He spoke English phrases into his phone, which were then played back over the phone’s speaker in German. A German person spoke into the same phone and the phrases were played back in English.
The feature is called “Conversation Mode” and will be available as part of Google Translate “within a few months.”
Finally, Barra demonstrated a new Street View interface, which is due within a week. It allows you to drag the little Street View icon, called Peg Man, around in a map and see high-resolution, 3D building imagery wherever you drop him, similar to the desktop version of Google Maps’ Street View feature.
Google TV is launching this fall in the US. Sony will be launching a Google TV-powered TV as well as a Google TV-powered Blu-ray player, while Logitech will be launching the previously-covered “Revue” Google TV set top box that will connect to currently available TV sets.
The devices’ remotes will come with Google TV-specific buttons, and you’ll also be able to use Android phones or iPhones as Google TV remotes. You’ll be able to conduct voice searches using the phones if you don’t want to type.
Google’s Brittany Bohnet demonstrated watching a standard TV channel and then typed “YouTube.com” into a search box overlaid on top of what she was watching. The TV pretty seamlessly pulled up YouTube within a few seconds.
She also showed off a search for “Star Trek,” which returned results for Star Trek episodes available through her cable provider, as well as for-pay episode downloads from various on-demand providers. Results for web pages containing information about Star Trek were available, too.
Perhaps the coolest feature is that if you search for something while you’re watching a show, you can collapse the show down into a picture-in-picture window located in the corner of Google’s search results page.
Google TV owners will be able to download apps from the Android Market early next year, too—basically turning your TV into a big Android phone.
The current internet is disruptive, according to Schmidt. Companies used to withholding information from customers are losing out to companies that champion the ideals of sharing information and openness.
Schmidt also said that we’ll never really forget anything because there’s now less and less importance of remembering things thanks to the ability to store large amounts of information inside computers. Even if you forget something, chances are that it’s on the web somewhere. “You really do have all the world’s information at your fingertips in any language.”
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