In a lengthy and detailed post on his personal site, Valve's Michael Abrash, a very smart man, has outlined a project he's working on at the games developer and online network operator: wearable computing.
Yup. Computers you can wear. Think Google's Glasses, only, made by Valve. Allow Abrash to explain:
By "wearable computing" I mean mobile computing where both computer-generated graphics and the real world are seamlessly overlaid in your view; there is no separate display that you hold in your hands (think Terminator vision). The underlying trend as we've gone from desktops through laptops and notebooks to tablets is one of having computing available in more places, more of the time.
The logical endpoint is computing everywhere, all the time — that is, wearable computing — and I have no doubt that 20 years from now that will be standard, probably through glasses or contacts, but for all I know through some kind of more direct neural connection.
And I'm pretty confident that platform shift will happen a lot sooner than 20 years — almost certainly within 10, but quite likely as little as 3-5, because the key areas — input, processing/power/size, and output — that need to evolve to enable wearable computing are shaping up nicely, although there's a lot still to be figured out.
Now, before you start making predictions this will make an appearance at E3, stop. He says as much below. It won't. It might not even make to the status of a real thing, because it's just a project the company is working on. Just like the weird control pad. Just like a bunch of other stuff we don't know about and might never know about.
To be clear, this is R&D — it doesn't in any way involve a product at this point, and won't for a long while, if ever — so please, no rumours about Steam glasses being announced at E3. It's an initial investigation into a very interesting and promising space and falls more under the heading of research than development. The Valve approach is to do experiments and see what we learn — failure is fine, just so long as we can identify failure quickly, learn from it, and move on — and then apply it to the next experiment. The process is very fast-moving and iterative, and we're just at the start. How far and where the investigation goes depends on what we learn.
It's only a few days ago we learned Valve was looking at hiring new engineers to ramp up its endeavours in the field of hardware. This may well be one of the projects they end up working on! And if it's not, well, imagine what else the company might be thinking about behind closed doors. Dispensers. Mark IV suits. Teleporters.
The rest of Abrash's write-up on the subject is worth a read, even if you're not terribly technically-minded. You can check it out below.
Valve: How I Got Here, What It's Like, and What I'm Doing [Ramblings in Valve Time, via The Verge]