Star Trek computer Kiwi's aim for future

19:55, Mar 01 2012

A former Blenheim man is behind a re-design of Google. Craig Nevill-Manning, who helped build and improve the omniscient search engine for 11 years, is forming a team that will usher in the next generation internet search engine.

The man behind Google maps is building a "Star Trek style" computer that will deliver a personalised answer gleaned from information stored all over the internet.

The next generation Google will find data, analyse it and deliver personal advice based on what it finds. "If you have a question, and the answer is on the web, Google will find it pretty quickly," Dr Nevill-Manning said from Google's New York engineering centre, which he established a decade ago.

"But there are some questions that we don't have an answer for."

Typing "I'm interested in buying a new car" into's search box currently delivers a list of 721 million websites containing some or all of those words. There's no intelligent analysis of the data found.

"That's really the problem I want to solve," said Dr Nevill-Manning, who studied for a computer science doctorate at Waikato University from 1992-1996. "What I really aim to build is a Star Trek computer."


Star Trek characters got information from the USS Enterprise's shipboard computer by asking it a question, which would be delivered in conversational form or on screen. The next generation Google will use the data from all over the internet to deliver advice on what sort of car you should buy on one webpage, perhaps refining the final readout based on other factors.

"That's what we are aiming for." It will be accessed from personal computers as well as mobile devices such as Google's Android smartphones and tablet computers.

"We already have got voice recognition technology built into the phone."

The former deputy head boy of Marlborough Boys' College has dropped reporting to Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to focus on the Star Trek project.

"For the last nine months I have been writing [computer] code and experimenting," he said.

"I was desperate to get back to working on a whole new idea. You can't always delegate having a good idea.

"Websites are designed to be read by humans not computers, the challenge is making it worthwhile for people to publish information in a streamlined form" which next generation Google can use, he said.

"I hope that the initial part of this will be available in the next 12 months."

At Waikato University Dr Nevill-Manning studied alongside Ian Witten, who is known as the "Grandfather of Google", for his 1993 book Managing Gigabytes. That book taught Google founders Page and Brin how to build a search engine.

Professor Witten said he was yet to hear how his former student would accomplish his goals, but was adamant he could do it. "He's a very, very bright man, and he's surrounded by very bright guys at Google."

Fairfax NZ