With a few flicks of his finger, Craig Mundie introduced Yale folks to the future of technology.
It had the look and feel of an Elm City Tech Expo. The stage at Yale's Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall was strewn with laptops, screens and a pair of makeshift work stations, as videos of youthful computer scientists and artists played on a large projection screen.
Mundie, senior adviser to the CEO of Microsoft, weaved among them gleefully.
"We want (computers) to emulate the way people interact with other people," he said. "We'd like the computer to be more like us."
According to Mundie, the emergence of tablets, smartphones, interactive TVs and other devices is changing the very infrastructure of society. As we begin to connect those devices, it will accelerate an evolution in the way we work, socialize, create and relax.
"We tend to believe, over time, we're going to see all sizes of touch-based displays," Mundie said. They'll range from screens the size of a wristwatch to screens that cover desks and walls.
For one demonstration, he showed how high-tech desk lamps will have the ability to record and project, allowing colleagues to work on the same document or drawing at the same time.
Mundie also played a video of a Microsoft executive using new translation technology. In the clip, the executive spoke in his normal voice, in English. Out of a loudspeaker came the same voice, speaking Chinese.
This sent murmurs of appreciation through the Yale crowd.
A wealth of technology in the pipeline, Mundie said, has to do with taking so-called Big Data and giving it practical applications. For instance, there is technology that doesn't just tell you where traffic jams are, but predicts where traffic will be -- based on weather, local events and recent patterns.
Other examples involved technology that lets you visually manipulate all U.S. Census data and document maps that show topical relationships within vast amounts of information.
"A rural farmer in India should be able to pick up his phone and ask, 'When should I plant?' and it should be able to say to him, 'Thursday,'" Mundie said.
Mundie also demonstrated desk surfaces of the future that let you physically handle and write on digital documents the same way you would paper documents. The difference is, you can zoom in on these documents.
"It's basically better than paper," he said.
Prior to his current role at Microsoft, Mundie spent 20 years in research and as a liaison to foreign governments for the software giant. He also served on an Obama administration advisory committee on science and technology with Yale President Richard C. Levin.
"Craig has an astonishing grasp of emerging technologies," Levin said.
Yet that did not spare Mundie from several incisive questions from students. They pointed out cutting-edge technologies from other companies and asked Mundie why Microsoft had been outmaneuvered in some instances by rival Apple.
"Our problem wasn't technology. Our problem was marketing," Mundie said. Noting the fickle nature of consumers, he added, "I don't think Apple has any lock on this stuff at all."
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