What do you think when you think wearable computers? Do you think about that phrase at all? It’s my strong opinion that you should devote a little brain power to this as it’s looming just over the horizon and it just could be one of those technical/societal revolutions that changes the way humans see their existence.
Fire, the invention of a horse yoke that won’t choke the animal, coal power, industrialization, the internet just a few of the things that have changed the way we operate in our daily existence. Now I’m going to put forth an idea for wearable computers that I think will change us again. This idea is based completely on technology that either exists now and is available to the public, or exists in the lab as a working prototype or something that’s expected to be working in the next 5 years.
Are you ready? Here’s the big idea: Wearable computing in the form of goggles. Doesn’t sound like all that much right? Let’s lay this idea open for examination.
Imagine that your computer monitor was a complete, 360 degree wraparound, stereo 3d display with surround sound. That’s a pretty big change visually but not so much functionally. We’re all dazzled by pretty lights but this won’t change the way our society operates, that is until you make the display the computer itself.
Now you’ve got this amazing display capability, that doesn’t just display data as sound and images, but contains pretty massive processing power (several 10 core chips at 5-10Ghz a core) with enough memory to make you cry and storage in the terabytes. Remember that all of this technology is either in the works or actually working.
This device now has massive processing power, memory and display capabilities. Add to this wireless networking that’s always on, connecting you at all times to everyone (and just about everything) around you.
You walk around and if you so choose all you see is €“ the reality around you, unaltered. But with a flick of your eyes on you can bring up as much or as little data as you’d like. We’ve all seen Google maps, where sattelite images have little squares superimposed around them with user provided data. Hover your mouse over the square and get a nifty bit of information like Memorial to the People, constructed 1860 AD by drug ravaged squirrels€ or what have you. Now imagine these superimposed over the real, actual world through your goggles. Glance to your right on the campus of Texas A&M University and in an instant have basic information about any building you see. With a flick of your eyes bring up a list of faculty who have their offices there, what classes are offered and at what time. See services available, historical data, the architect of the building or virtually anything that’s made available.
Fine, granular control over the data you receive. Want to make a personal note about the building? A tree? No problem, say what you’d like in a barely audible voice (or a sub-vocalization) that your goggles will pick up, translate into text in the language you’re speaking and store the info as a tag retreivable at any time by you. If you want, make this tidbit public, or available to a certain subset of the public, like your co-workers or your Mom or members of a club you belong too.
Want to use the phone? Ring someone up on your goggles. Choose between text translated from voice, voice and text, voice only, voice and image (point of view or what you’re seeing) voice and avatar (a virtual representation of yourself) or voice and a real time simulated self.
Want to listen to music? You’ve got several terabytes of storage available on your device and an always on, high-speed wireless network connection. Choose to stream or grab from your play list stored locally.
Play a game? queue it up on your goggles and bang away. Want to be able to type? Use a virtual keyboard. Either using a laser keyboard projected by a small device wirelessly connected to your goggles or glance at a hard surface and set the spatial coordinates on your goggles, then a simulated keyboard is added, appearing whenever you look down on it. Type away!
Collaboration, individual work, telecommuting, virtual meetings, video phone, sound and video production, gaming, chatting, shopping, movies, you name it, all available through your goggles.
Imagine a display where you could have near infinite windows open, set to various levels of opacity/transparency. You can place them anywhere. In youre perhipheral vision, directly in front of you, six miles away on the horizon as a virtual 1 inch by 1 inch square. You could make digital sculptures and place them in real world places. Any who chose to see them, could.
Don’t you think that would change the world and the way we interact with it? Having that much data at your fingertips means never having to forget. File a fact away and recall it later, as needed. Want to get away for a while? Simply take your goggles off and walk into the woods.
Do I expect to see this in five years? No. I do expect to see this, or something like it – possibly something much better within the next 10 to 20 years however. How pervasive will it be? Look at the iPod. This will be everywhere, on many, many people with a particular emphasis on those who are younger and more able to adapt to a massive change in the way of working and living.
If you happen to be a millionaire looking for something to sink your money in, or a technical whiz looking to code, construct or invent your way into the future, well here’s where I think you should look.