In what’s becoming something of an Empower MSP tradition, Dave Sobel closed out the conference with his vision for the future. As he puts it—moving beyond the roadmap.
He opened the presentation with a quote from Charles F. Kettering, VP and director of research at General Motors (1920-1947), “My interest is in the future because I’m going to spend the rest of my life in it.”
After this, he set out what he says are his table stakes—the things that we all know we have to do—before homing in on some areas we need to have in our sights. Dave was particularly excited about the fact that he discovered a perfect story to highlight the real power of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI).
“I’ve always thought the content of the machine learning and AI story was a little too perfect and lacked a really solid practical example. Finally, I have one I think is awesome,” Dave said.
He continued: “For those who don’t know, former US Vice President Joe Biden’s son died of cancer towards the end of his term. This was one of the reasons Joe decided not to run for President. Instead, he spends his time focused heavily on the Biden Foundation, which aims to help companies wanting to get involved in cancer research.”
Dave explained how in an interview, Biden talked specifically about how these technologies are proving really powerful for cancer research. Biden tells the story of how he got a call from the chairman of the board of IBM asking him if he’d like Watson. Watson is the IBM AI platform, and it has “read” every single book on cancer that has ever been written. Biden tells how they can input the genome data for a person’s cancer, and Watson will tell them every treatment that has been used and the percentages of which worked best for which protein and on which form of cancer.
“This is a very cool and real example of how both machine learning and AI can be applied to a real problem,” said Dave. “And it’s also super relevant to our space; you can take a problem, run it through an algorithm, and see every solution that has ever been applied to that problem and the results. This is what they’re doing in the VA hospital right now. This is not an abstract example; this is happening now!”
Turning his attention to an old favorite—the Internet of Things (IoT)—Dave cited the example of Microsoft’s work with Dancing Crow Farm. The challenge Microsoft cited was the need to raise yield to keep pace with the growing population. It showed how to accomplish this by linking up a huge number of sensors and devices around the farm, giving real-time data on growing conditions and feeding that into predictions for future seasons. This lets the farmers know what to plant and when, and enables them to increase productivity and yield.
“The story here writes itself,” said Dave. “This is just one example of how IoT is changing things around us. All these devices need to be installed, managed, checked, and secured. And who’s going to be doing this? You are!”
Finally, Dave closed his presentation with a look at what he believes will have the biggest impact on computing in the coming years—voice.
“I think voice is the next user interface. It’s like when Steve Jobs looked at the mouse at Xerox PARC and thought, ‘This is going to change everything about the way we work with computers,’” Dave said.
To highlight the fact that voice is more than a parlor trick, Dave turned to the recent Google Duplex demo from Google IO 2018, which demonstrated the Google Assistant making a call and booking a hair cut.
Dave added that he didn’t think voice will replace the keyboard or the touchscreen, but would augment them. “Some things we’ll ask for, some things we’ll touch, some things we’ll type. It’s about whatever makes the most sense at the time,” he said.
You just need to look at the car manufacturers that are bringing in voice assistants to their vehicles—Ford, Nissan, BMW, Mercedes, Kia, and Hyundai, to name a few. All these manufacturers have perfectly good in-car systems that they are now augmenting with voice interfaces. It’s becoming ubiquitous.
“I’m not saying that every MSP now has to go off and get involved in voice right this second,” Dave concluded. “What I’m saying is that we need to start thinking about this new UI and understand that it’s another part of the way people will be interacting with devices. Voice is opening a new paradigm and will change a whole bunch of things we currently take for granted.”
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