My Gadget Life – Vint Cerf

The godfather of the internet and Google VP talks robots, remote controlled wine cellars and the future of search

Can't get off the internet? Well, meet Vint Cerf, one of the founding fathers of the damn thing. Cerf designed the TCP/IP internet protocols with fellow computer scientist Bob Kahn and was involved in the first data packet switching experiments in the 1970s as well as the first commercial email service in the 80s. Now he's VP and 'Chief Internet Evangelist' at Google – which makes sense when you think about it.

We made some conscious decisions about the design of the Internet.

But what we didn't appreciate is what happens when you carry your information window in your pocket. When we were working in the 70s, you had to sit down at a terminal and be wired into a computer. The fact that smartphones give us the ability to generate or consume information anytime anywhere is dramatic.

Cloud computing is timesharing on steroids.

In a sense we have gone back to that old mode of interaction. Our Chromebooks are just a browser so the only thing you see is what the computer in the cloud is sending. What's different is that the cloud's capacity is unbelievably big.

Computers can do some things better than we can – and a lot faster.

Our world may be changed by being able to bring computers into the same environment we're in. MIT Media Lab have robots that can see and hear in the same way we can. So this little robot became a partner in our natural human interaction as opposed to us having to turn and type something in. Or somehow get its attention – like on Star Trek when someone would always say 'Computer!'

Instead of typing a query into Google search, I want to have a conversation.

I don't just want to speak. I want the computer to understand enough to help me get to what it is I'm looking for instead of repeatedly typing in more and more refined searches. I want a partner, I don't just want a tool. And I think we're getting closer and closer to that happening.

I'm very concerned when the temperature of my wine cellar drops below 60° F

I have an instrumented house – what else would you expect from a geek? The wine cellar is alarmed so if the temperature goes above 60 degrees, I get an SMS. I was on a visit to a laboratory and as I walked into the building, my mobile went off and it was the wine cellar calling. Every five minutes I kept getting a text telling me my wine was warming up. Now I have the ability to remotely reprogramme the cellar.

Vint Cerf was speaking at the Virgin Media launch of Life Online which opens on March 30th at the National Media Museum, Bradford.

 

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