Posted by Rob Knies

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The second day of the Microsoft Research Machine Learning Summit 2013 got off to a rousing start with an hour-long plenary keynote by  serial entrepreneur Hermann Hauser, co-founder of Amadeus Capital Partners.

Hauser, a physicist and a Fellow of the Royal Society, the Institute of Physics, and the Royal Academy of Engineering, has a long, successful history of in incubating IT companies, including U.K. computer maker Acorn Computers, a former subsidiary of which is now known as ARM Holdings, which dominates the market for chips used in mobile phones.

His talk was called Machine Learning, the 6th Wave of Computing, and he began by referring back to 1947 and the Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator (EDSAC), a prototype computer constructed by British computing pioneer Maurice Wilkes at the University of Cambridge.

Hauser referred to the EDSAC as the “0th Wave” and used that as his springboard into a discussion of the evolution of the computer from early days up to the present. The six waves, Hauser said, consist of:

  • The mainframe.
  • The mini-computer.
  • The workstation.
  • The personal computer.
  • The smartphone combined with the cloud.
  • Ubiquitous computing and machine learning.

Hermann HauserFor each, he discussed associated developments, such as the hardware that enabled the next leap forward, the user interface, and how the computer. He also noted that each wave led to a mushrooming number of devices, while the costs of the computing devices were driven steadily down. Then he got to our current era.

“Interesting point about the price,” Hauser said. “I told you that phones are available at zero cost, really, so when you go from there, you can’t really go below zero—but in a way you can.

“The thing that has been happening with the price in the Internet of Things in the ubiquitous-computing wave is that the price actually is no longer associated with the computing element. The price is a thing that you’d buy anyway, like a car or glasses that you need or a thermostat. It’s just that now, it has these nice, new functionalities that make it really useful. It becomes part of the environment.”

And then, Hauser tied his historical recap back to the subject of the event.

“What’s the big deal about machine learning?” he asked. “It really makes the Internet, the everyday things you interact with, much more user-friendly, much more human.

“But the big thing is the effect this will have on health.”

That comment provided an ultra-smooth segue into my next post. Stay tuned.