Apple co-founder outlines ‘human’ computer vision

30 May 2013
By Edd Gent
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Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak speaking at the European Business Network's annual conference

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak speaking at the European Business Network's annual conference

A human-like computer of the future could give every child a personal tutor, according to Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.

The former teacher says he envisages a day when information technology allowed one-on-one teaching and said it was important young people "wrote the book" rather than followed tried and tested ideas.

The entrepreneur was speaking today at Londonderry's Millennium Forum for the European Business Network's annual conference.

"We are moving closer to where a computer is like a person and we can have normal conversations with it," he said. "We will be able to have one teacher per student and let students go on in their own direction."

He added: "A computer is an awful cheap teacher, it has to get more human in its characteristics; anything another human being can understand is what I want my phones to understand."

The entrepreneur predicted mobile devices would become more like real humans over the next couple of decades.

He said that process has been on-going for years, with people "lifting" information into virtual rubbish bins on desktops and using mouses designed to mimic the two-dimensional human experience. Dropdown menus are another example of applying human thinking to computers.

Wozniak said for many years foldable LED displays had been the goal and added he wanted to see a glowing globe to zoom into for Google Earth-type applications.

He claimed people were being more and more attracted by Google glasses and wearable technology like watches or devices worn on the head.

"I would love to get low-cost plasters to push buttons and change the colour of my car, wearable technology is something we are hearing so much about at the moment," he said.

He described his philosophy on work simply.

"Our meaning in life is to follow the urges that we are born with," he said, adding that sometimes students with the least money were the most likely to succeed because they were forced to innovate and were not constrained by the need to earn a wage or follow accepted practice.

He said he invented the floppy drive because he wanted to see Las Vegas and the company was having a meeting there and he needed to earn his inclusion on the delegation, also recalling his work on programming scientific calculators at Hewlett Packard, which he said was simply about making life simpler by thinking differently.

Wozniak said when he first teamed up with Steve Jobs he managed to get Intel chips from a salesman for free and added they founded their company with $300 each.

At one point, opening garage doors at the push of a button was the frontier of technology and computers could not handle chess games, but now they are becoming more like humans in their ability to handle complex problems, he said.

"We did not invent the internet to be a brain, we stumbled on it by accident," he added.

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