Eric Schmidt: Welcome to “Age of Augmented Humanity”

Internet-connected devices will soon “just work” and understand autonomously, automatically and quickly what a user wants to know, Google (s GOOG) CEO Eric Schmidt said in a speech today. While recent and upcoming Google product releases may seem different and disconnected, Schmidt contended there’s a unified theory behind them. For instance, both mobile Voice Actions and Google TV are a natural extension of the way we humans think and expect things to function.

Schmidt calls these converging phenomena the “age of augmented humanity.” He spoke of the growth of broadband, connected devices and computing power to envision what’s next after search; to my biased ears, it sounded like a pitch-perfect GigaOM guest column. “The computer and the human each does something better because the other is helping,” Schmidt said today in a keynote speech at the IFA consumer electronics conference in Berlin, tying together Google’s efforts in artificial intelligence, smartphones and connected devices. You can watch full video of the keynote here.

Schmidt gave credit to Bill Gates for proposing the idea of “information at your fingertips” at COMDEX back in 1990. “We’re nearly there now, which is what’s so profound,” Schmidt said. “You can literally know everything.”

Google is moving to make search faster, more personal, and more automatic, Schmidt said. For instance, as a lover of history, he wants his phone to spout random facts as he walks around Berlin. His phone should understand what he wants to know before he thinks to ask, and what he really means. “When you ask what’s the weather like, what you’re really asking is, ‘Do I wear a raincoat or do I water the plants?'” Schmidt explained.

The next expressions of this theory, Schmidt said, are things like autonomous cars and the growth of real-time telemetry. Google Product Management Director Hugo Barra demonstrated an upcoming feature called “conversation mode” in Google Translate, where a user can interact with someone in a different language by speaking into a mobile phone and having software on the phone itself translate and speak on the fly. “This really is history,” Schmidt said of Barra’s working demo. However, Google won’t be connecting personal information to the real world via facial recognition, which Schmidt said is “just too creepy.”

Monetizing “augmented humanity” will require large existing businesses that depend on the economics of scarcity to change to the “economics of ubiquity,” Schmidt said, where greater distribution means more profits. He cited the (long-expected) successful monetization of YouTube as an example. “Augmented humanity” will introduce lots of “healthy debate” about privacy and sharing personal information, and it will be empowering for everybody, not just the elite, Schmidt said, paying tribute to hot-button issues in Europe where the IFA show was held.

In the course of the speech, Schmidt offered a number of data points to strengthen his argument, some of which provide new insight into Google’s business:

  • 1 in 3 queries from smartphones are now seeking information about nearby places
  • Google’s mobile search traffic grew 50 percent in first half of 2010
  • Chrome is four times faster than two years ago (“Deeper integration with browsers means more autonomous actions,” Schmidt said — and less reliance on apps)
  • 1 in 4 searches on Android in U.S. comes from voice
  • YouTube gets more than 2 billion views per day, 160 million mobile views per day and 24 hours of video uploaded every minute. It has more than 2 billion monetized views per week, and the number of advertisers on the site is up 50 percent in last year. DoubleClick serves more than 45 billion ads per day, with 94 of top 100 Ad Age advertisers. (i.e. the future will not go unmonetized.)

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