Artificial intelligence is the next major wave of computing, Android creator says

Andy Rubin, the father of Google's mobile software, also says the industry needs to start figuring out how to interact with devices that don't have a screen -- like washing machines.

Shara Tibken Former managing editor
Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
Shara Tibken
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Andy Rubin, the creator of Google's Android (right), chats with Recode's Walt Mossberg at the Code Mobile confernece Shara Tibken/CNET

HALF MOON BAY, Calif. -- The next major phase of computing will be artificial intelligence, the creator of Google's Android software predicted Wednesday.

Andy Rubin, speaking here at the Code Mobile conference, said mobile isn't going away as the main method of computing, but other methods will emerge, including technology to make regular devices smarter through artificial intelligence and robotics. AI is the practice of making a machine behave in a smart way, such as making a robot smarter or adding Internet connectivity to something like a washing machine.

"Your dishwasher is a robot," Rubin said. "It used to be a chore you did in the sink. ... There's a lot of definitions [of artificial intelligence]. ... The thing that's going to be new is the part of the cloud that's forming the intelligence from all of the information that's coming back."

Rubin, creator of the Android mobile operating system, joined Google in 2005 when the search giant bought Android. Before working on Android, Rubin ran a company called Danger, which made an advanced cell phone. It was purchased by Microsoft in 2008.

Most recently at Google, Rubin was the head of the company's nascent robotic efforts at its experimental Google X lab. But Rubin left the company a year ago to start Playground Global, a startup "incubator" that nurtures budding hardware companies. Google is an investor in Rubin's new project. Redpoint Ventures, a venture-capital firm where Rubin is now a partner, also invested.

Silicon Valley has become a hot place for physical hardware projects, after the market had been driven for the last several years by software and Internet companies. Companies like smartwatch maker Pebble, home-video surveillance company Dropcam and the smart thermostat maker Nest have grabbed attention from the world's largest tech companies, inspiring competition -- like the Apple Watch and Google's Android Wear watches -- and acquisitions.

Rubin, speaking about his departure from Google, said he questioned what he was going to do for the next 10 years of his life. "Am I going to fight for 1 or 2 percent market share [in mobile devices], or am I going to do 10 more Androids?" he said. Playground closed its fundraising efforts "yesterday literally," Rubin said Wednesday, and will now have $300 million to invest in hardware companies.

Rubin added that some areas he's now focusing on include how to interact with things that don't have screens, like appliances or swimming pools. One recent investment by his new fund was a company called Connected Yard, which makes a device that does a constant chemical analysis of the water in a swimming pool.

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He also added that the mobile market "can change anytime," and that's what has always interested him about the industry. Nokia's Symbian operating system once dominated the market, but it no longer exists. Today, Google's Android and Apple's iOS are the dominant mobile device software choices. Rubin added that "the last thing the world needed was another operating system" when Android hit the market. But the market needed an open software.

"What we have today that we didn't even have three years ago is consumer choice," Rubin said. "The consumer can choose, they can also do a lot with their phones they wouldn't be able to do with Symbian and different configurations of their phones. Android, because it's open source, there's just a ton of good ideas, but those good ideas need to basically be curated by the consumer."

Rubin also called Microsoft's recent steps to include its Office programs -- like World and Excel -- on competing devices running Android and iOS "revolutionary."

"Just that thinking ... is going to take [Microsoft] to the next thing," he said.