TIME magazine has a great article up today about one of the most important things we're working on at Google: the universal assistant. Simply searching for web pages isn't what people want, nowadays: they want to be able to talk into their computer (or into their phone, or simply speak into the void) and have it understand what they mean, what they want, and make it happen.
I'm extremely excited about this area: So excited, in fact, that I've made it into my day job. For the past several months, I've been focusing on this full-time, and this is what I expect to be spending the next several years on: making "ambient computing" -- computing that is seamlessly present wherever you are, so easily accessible that you barely even realize that you're interacting with a computer -- a worldwide reality.
You may not know this, but before working on Google's social products, I spent years building major chunks of our search systems and our systems infrastructure; the "universal computer" has long been a dream of mine.
I often tell people that "any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced." That's more than just a quip: the defining feature of magic is that it transforms your wish for what the world should be like into physical reality, without you having to perform any intervening steps. ("Abracadabra" is not just a nonsense word: it's Aramaic, "avra ke-davra," "may it come to pass as I have spoken." It's all about your words turning into reality.)
To achieve that, we have to go far beyond simple things like search: we have to have systems that make it easy for people to interact with and extend the assistant to do everything conceivable. That's where I'm spending my time, and I'm looking forward to being able to tell people more in the future!