The future is almost here, but still maddeningly far away.
That was the message this week from Facebook chief technical officer Mike Schroepfer, who gave the opening keynote address at the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal. He explained that the social networking company was optimistic about that future, even as it knew it would stumble on the way there and must remain patient.
“These are big bets,” he said. “And you don’t make big bets without having big failures.”
The company is focused on three areas that it has been discussing publicly in recent years. The first is bringing connectivity to 4.1 billion people who are still not online. While Schroepfer talked about some of those efforts, he also highlighted the recent rocket explosion that destroyed a Facebook satellite that was meant to deliver internet access to parts of Africa.
“That’s a bummer,” he said. “That’s going to set back our work in space for a little bit.”
He also cautioned patience on artificial intelligence. As much progress as has been made, he said the ability of machines to match human intelligence is still years away.
On the other hand, he said that virtual reality is finally here, after decades of waiting. He explained that components and pricing have finally caught up so that truly immersive experiences can be delivered in a meaningful way.
Here’s a video of his full talk this week: