When Microsoft founder Bill Gates moved from his Chairmanship of the Microsoft Board to his new role as "Technology Advisor," he committed to spending up to a third of his time working on Microsoft-related projects.I've heard from a few of my contacts that Gates has been involved in various product reviews and meetings, but we haven't heard many specifics about products in which he's playing a key role. (We did hear he was working on a new "Meeting-Room-Plus" type conferencing system last fall. I'm betting that is what evolved into the recently introduced Surface Hub.)
In a January 28 Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything), his third such appearance, Gates told participants he was working on a "Personal Agent" project with the company. He didn't offer many specifics.
When asked what he believed the next 30 years would hold in terms of personal computing technology, Gates said:
"There will be more progress in the next 30 years than ever. Even in the next 10 problems like vision and speech understanding and translation will be very good. Mechanical robot tasks like picking fruit or moving a hospital patient will be solved. Once computers/robots get to a level of capability where seeing and moving is easy for them then they will be used very extensively."
"One project I am working on with Microsoft is the Personal Agent which will remember everything and help you go back and find things and help you pick what things to pay attention to. The idea that you have to find applications and pick them and they each are trying to tell you what is new is just not the efficient model - the agent will help solve this. It will work across all your devices."
It's not clear if this new Personal Agent is related to Cortana, Microsoft's personal-digital assistant technology. Or maybe it's a new application for the aforementioned Surface Hub -- something that would complement the customized Skype for Business, OneNote and Connect applications that are bundled with that system? Beyond that, I have no idea.
In today's Reddit AMA, Gates also (unsurprisingly) said he was bullish about the coming Microsoft HoloLens augmented-reality glasses.
He also called Bitcoin "an exciting new technology," but noted it didn't have much applicability to the work the Gates Foundation is doing with the poor.
"Overall financial transactions will get cheaper using the work we do and Bitcoin related approaches," however, he noted.
My favorite question (and answer) in today's Gates Reddit:
Q: Can you still jump over a chair? http://m.imgur.com/r/gifs/lFU1t3A
Gates: A shorter chair every decade I am afraid.
In a previous Reddit AMA, Gates disclosed his biggest product regret at Microsoft was WinFS.