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Last week was an exciting one for tech fans across the country. Google released prototypes of Google Glass to a few lucky thousand who completed a short application, and paid $1,500. If you are not a tester, do not expect to use Google Glass anytime soon. Testers had to sign a contract which forbids sharing or selling their Glass. The first public launch is not expected until 2014, after Google modifies Glass based on testers’ responses.
What exactly is Google Glass? Essentially, it is a computer you wear on your head, a pair of lens-free (or with lenses if you prefer) glasses that suspends a small screen before your eyes. Google Glass allows you to access the web and Google Drive, and operate video and camera options with voice-recognition commands. According to Google, Glass’ screen is “equivalent [to] a 25-inch high-definition screen from eight feet away”. It also features a micro USB port, and 12GB of usable storage. Right now, its features mimic most offered by cell-phones with the bonus of being hands-free, but coming editions will feature apps and other modifications.
If you are imagining Star Trek’s Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge’s visor, you are not far off. Take Google’s tour of what Glass does. Watch a video of how it feels to wear and to use Google Glass. View how a day with Google Glass might unfold. Visit Engineering and Technology Magazine online to learn how it works.
Upon its unveiling, Google Glass immediately attracted ardent fans—those who are sure it represents our technological and experiential future—and harsh critics—those who predict physical and philosophical dangers. A bar in Seattle has banned Google Glass. There is a petition to ban Google Glass until privacy issues have been addressed. West Virginia lawmakers proposed adding language to legislation that would make it illegal to drive while wearing Google Glass.
Computers began decades ago as room-sized machines. Modifications to their size and weight transformed computers into personal-sized, mobile devices. In the current wave of advances, computers are becoming increasingly ubiquitous and wearable. Google Glass is the latest step in this trend. What is ubiquitous technology? What is wearable technology? Hop online and discover for yourself.
Ubiquitous. It is a fantastic word. Wrap your tongue around it: u-BICK-wa-tous. But what does it mean and how does it relate to technology? Ubiquitous means ‘existing everywhere.’ So by extension, ubiquitous technology exists everywhere. But there is more to it than simply having a lot of devices. Actually, it is just the opposite. Ubiquitous technology disappears, not because it has super powers but because it is such a seamless part of our lives, we no longer notice it. The HowStuffWorks video, Visions of the Future: Ubiquitous Computing, explains what ubiquitous technology is and how it works.
Mark Weiser first suggested the term ‘ubiquitous technology’ in 1988. According to Weiser,
"Ubiquitous computing names the third wave in computing, just now beginning. First there were mainframes, each shared by lots of people. Now we are in the personal computing era, person and machine staring uneasily at each other across the desktop. Next comes ubiquitous computing, or the age of calm technology, when technology recedes into the background of our lives."
Or, as Google Glass’ site states, “We believe technology should work for you—to be there when you need it and get out of your way when you don’t.” View the infographic timeline, Your Computer is Going Away, that shows how computers developed and how future technology will help them become invisible.
Ubiquitous devices are smart—they are wired with microprocessors and can share information via the internet at a moment’s notice. One example is new
water meters. Weiser’s article, The Computer for the 21st Century further explains his vision.
Some ubiquitous devices are readily available now. Others are in the pipeline. Companies such as Cisco and Microsoft are researching and developing new tools. Watch one prediction of the future that is based on Cisco’s and Microsoft’s visions.
Invisible, and pervasive computing is not what makes Google Glass cool. They are wearable. It is a technological trend with possibilities you never may have imagined. PBS’ Off Book considers the underpinning concepts, the definition, and the uses of wearable technology in The Future of Wearable Technology. The Today Show also previewed the coming wearable technology in an April, 2013 episode called Try it Out, Try it On: Wearable tech. Check out some wearable technology that is available, or soon will be.
Scientists at the Textiles Nanotechnology Lab at Cornell University are on the forefront of this research and development. Learn more about their work by watching a series of short videos and audios: Nano Dress: Fashion Meets Function; NPR’s Life in 2030, BBC’s Culture Shock.
Researchers at MIT are also developing wearable technology; however, their focus is different than researchers at the Cornell Lab. During a TED talk MIT’s Patti Maes unveils SixthSense, a different type of wearable technology. Hear from Pranav Mistry, the student who invented SixthSense, about how he developed this revolutionary technology.
Technology's future is ripe with possibilities. Consider some of the predicted tech trends for 2013, courtesy of techsoup.org. Which most excite you? Which do you believe will come true? What are your technological predictions?