Witness to the start of a new era

Daryl HattonConnectionPoint

Sometimes, I’m very aware how lucky I am. Today is a good example. I was fortunate to be present when Google launched Wave.

Google Wave

I can hear the snide comments now: “Give me a break – it is just a piece of software”. “Techies – just a bunch of self-centered geeks”, “OMG, get a life”.

This is different.

It is impossible to describe Wave succinctly – there are too many aspects that, by themselves, are very important and impactful.

However, there is one thing it does that stands out for me – Wave is the first big implementation of the transition from request/response web metaphors to a fully interactive, real-time collaborative web. By itself, this is very cool. But it is the stuff that can run ON TOP of this that is really exciting. Bear with me for a moment.

During the demo, Lars Rasmussen opened a wave (collaboration document) with a colleague from France. When Lars typed something into the document, his colleague could see each individual character immediately as it was typed and vice versa. The VERY cool part of this is that as Lars typed, his words were also translated into French on-the-fly i.e. in real-time. While his colleague typed something in French, his words were also translated instantly into English. Simply put, they could carry out a conversation in their native language with instant translation into the other language using Google’s vast knowledge of patterns in the information published on the web to improve the quality of the results. By itself, this is VERY COOL.

But take it a step further. In a few years, mobile devices (which will run Wave), will be able to convert speech to text and text to speech in real-time with very high fidelity. If you let Moore’s law run for another few years and combine these speech technologies with Wave, faster wireless and Bluetooth technology, I’ll be able to have a conversation with someone in any one of perhaps 80 languages (the current standard – sure to expand) with REAL TIME translation of what I’m saying into their language and REAL TIME translation of what they are saying into English.

If you are a fan of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy you’ll recognize that while you won’t have something slippery INSIDE your ear i.e. a mythical babelfish, you’ll have something light-weight and comfortable hanging OUTSIDE your ear (and a box the size of a pack of cards in your pocket) that will give you the same result – the ability to speak with and understand almost anyone on the planet. “Unbelievable” is simply not strong enough.

To me, Wave is about improving communication. I can see how it will do this across national and cultural boundaries and across race. When we improve communications, we increase understanding. When we increase understanding, we reduce fear and increase tolerance. When we increase tolerance, we reduce aggression and conflict. When we reduce conflict, we increase peace and stability. When we increase peace and stability, fewer people die needlessly.

What a wonderful gift from “just a piece of software”.

My hat is off to the Wave team and to the visionary leaders at Google who encourage this kind of work.