All posts by Lucy Ingham

Oracle CEO: The interface of the future won’t include a touchscreen

The user interface of the future will render the ubiquitous touchscreen to history, Mark Hurd, CEO of technology giant Oracle, has said.

Speaking on Tuesday at Web Summit, Hurd argued that a collection of AI, optical and voice based interfaces will mean that the touchscreen is not only going to become a thing of the past in our leisure time, but also in business environments.

“I think user interfaces will change dramatically in the next five years,” he said.

“This thing that everybody is doing out here that I see: pushing on a piece of glass, people will be showing pictures of that to the next generation, who’ll be saying ‘what in the heck were these people doing?’”

When asked what would replace touchscreen technology, Hurd said that the user interface of the future would be a combination of technologies that would be unseen but ever-present, allowing those in both office and leisure environments to perform tasks using their voice.

“I think it will be voice, optical, all sorts of capabilities,” Hurd said.

“We’ll be able to now, with these new data models, create enterprise apps that can do what you see the beginning of consumer apps doing: be able to give you answers to questions immediately.

“AI will be integrated not just as a solution but integrated deeply into the applications themselves.”

Image courtesy of Kārlis Dambrāns

However, Hurd refused to comment on the idea that such a future would give rise to chips embedded in our brains, a notion that while possible, has drawn deep concern from many.

“There’s so many positive benefits of what we’re now going to get computers to do that humans either can’t do, don’t have the time to do, I’d stay focused on those,” he said.

“Fully self-driving cars are here”: Waymo becomes first company to remove human drivers, announces driverless Uber rival

In a landmark moment for self-driving cars, Google’s driverless car company Waymo has announced that it has begun testing the car without a human behind the wheel on public roads.

The move, which was announced by John Krafcik, CEO of Waymo, today at Web Summit, makes Waymo the first company to do so.

“We have some exciting news to share with the world right here at Web Summit,” he said. “Right now we’re going to show you a video of Waymo’s fully self-driving cars on public roads, test driving without anyone in the driver’s seat.

“Fully self-driving cars are here. It’s not happening in 2020, it’s happening today.”

The announcement was accompanied by the unveiling of the planned Waymo Driverless Service, an Uber rival that will see a fleet of Waymo driverless vehicles operating, entirely without human involvement, as a taxi service across the world at an unspecified time in the future.

Discussing the video embedded above, Krafcik stressed that the vehicles we’re operating completely autonomously, meaning Waymo has achieved the holy grail of true level 5 self-driving cars.

“As you can see, there’s no one in the front seats,” he said. “Waymo team members chose three separate destinations, pressed the start button in the car and the vehicle did all the rest, choosing what route to take, when to turn, when to yield and everything in between. That’s full, true autonomy.”

In addition, he was keen to stress that such trials are now going to be commonplace in Phoenix, Arizona, where the company is testing its vehicles.

“This wasn’t just a one-time ride or just a demo, what you’re seeing now marks the start of a new phase for Waymo, and for the history of this technology,” said Krafcik. “We’re test-driving these fully self-driving vehicles in a part of the Phoenix metro area in Arizona. Over time we’ll expand to cover the entire Phoenix region, an area much larger than Greater London, and our ultimate goal is to bring our fully self-driving technology to more cities in the US and around the world.”

It won’t just be Waymo employees that get to experience the vehicles, either.

“In the next few months members of the public will get to experience these fully self-driving rides too,” he said. “The first passengers will be people who are part of our early rider program, which is a public trial already underway in Phoenix, Arizona.

“Since the beginning of this year our early riders have been using our fleet with a test driver at the wheel to go to work, school, soccer practice and more. Soon they’ll be able to make these trips in a fully self-driving car with Waymo as their chauffer.”

Krafcik at Web Summit, with one of the Waymo driverless fleet. Image courtesy of Web Summit

As part of his talk at Web Summit, Krafcik also unveiled the company’s plans for the Waymo Driverless Service, an autonomous alternative to Uber that currently has no fixed timeline, but will eventually be rolled out around the world.

“We’re now working on making this commercial service available to the public,” he said. “People get to use our fleet of on-demand vehicles to do anything from commute to work, get home from a night out, run errands, whatever they like.

“Getting access will be easy as using an app: you just tap a button and Waymo will come to get you, and take you where you want to go. The vehicles will be fully self-driving, so you have your own personal space where you just sit back and relax.”