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Google's Amit Singhal reveals ambition to create intuitive computer modelled on Star Trek

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By Stephen Lepitak, -

May 15, 2012 | 3 min read

Amit Singhal, senior vice president at Google has discussed his dream of developing a computer similar to those featured in the classic science fiction TV series Star Trek and said that a device similar to those featured in the series will be a reality in his lifetime.

Talking at search conference SMX London 2012, Singhal, who has been a major force in Google’s world dominance of the search sector, discussed growing up in the 70’s and watching repeats of the original series of Star Trek on his family’s black and white television set.

“I was so fascinated by Star Trek that I wanted a computer just like those in the show that could talk and do everything,” he told the room in his introduction.

Having joined Google in 2000 and begun to write his own algorithm coding for the search giant, he embarked on a journey that he believes that taken him to a stage where such a device in which people interact with a computer that understands speech instruction, is possible, although he also admitted that asking a computer to understand what an object is, is still a stumbling block.

“In last 5-7 years, I stand closer to my boyhood dream of building that star trek computer than I ever thought, however, he continued; “Most search engines don’t understand that Taj Mahal can be a beautiful monument, a singer, or a restaurant…Computers don’t understand things, they only understand strings,” he added.

“The next big leap will come when we start to understand things. That’s what I’m really excited about because it opens doors for tomorrow. When you start putting that together with speech recognition and mobile phones you can see in your head the emergence of the Star Trek computer. You can start talking to your phone today. Google has had voice search for last year or two. We will get to the Star Trek computer, not for my kids, but for me in my lifetime.”

He also admitted later on that people were still reluctant to speak to their phone and offer it commands while walking down the street, and that the technology was still considered to be ‘very young’.

Singhal also revealed that there were no imminent plans to roll out Search plus Your World in Europe.

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