I want a tricorder, and I want it now! Well maybe not a tricorder specifically but I certainly want my technology to take the natural next step and become more and more wearable with products such as iPod watches, heads up display (HUD) glasses, and smart fabric available. This doesn’t seem so far fetched given the recent buzz that Google will be launching smart glasses that are Android-based. These glasses will include a small screen that sits a few inches from someone’s eye. The glasses will also have a 3G or 4G data connection and a number of sensors including motion and GPS. The smart glasses would be navigated via tilting and nodding which would make those folks talking on Bluetooth devices you can’t see look darn normal in comparison. So from Google Goggles to Google Glasses, looks like wearable computing is becoming an imminent reality.
Smart glasses are only the beginning though.
According to a recent CNN article Ray Hammond, a futurologist whose career is built on accurately forecasting technological leaps, believes phones and tablets of today will be broken into tiny pieces and scattered about the body, even implanted in the skin. And glasses such as what Google is believed to be making will provide “a complete physical interface to the digital and virtual worlds,” according to Hammond.
I know this all sounds like a science fiction story, probably because the idea of wearable computing is a consistent theme/idea leveraged for the genre. For example in Rainbows End written in 2006 by Verner Vinge, augmented reality is a dominant factor, with humans interacting with virtual overlays of reality pretty much constantly. They do this by wearing smart clothing and contact lenses that can overlay and replace what the eye would normally see with computer graphics, using advanced virtual retinal display (VRD) technology. But like a lot of good science fiction these novels really just tapped into what the authors thought was a natural progression in our technological advancement and with wearable computing they hit the nail on the head.
Many academics have been exploring e-textiles and wearable computing for years now. They would agree with the SciFi authors that humans will be integrated and intimate with technology in ways that are not on most of our horizons right now. For example Tom Martin, a computer engineer at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, says, “E-textiles are a way for us to build wearable computers that look like normal clothing to build pervasive computing devices that fit in seamlessly with the environment.” And of course I blogged about the MIT Sixth Sense project a couple of years ago which is a wearable gestural interface that augments the physical world with digital information and engages natural hand gestures to interact with that information.
So my hats off to Google for appearing to dive heads first into the wearable computing market, I’ll keep my glasses on though