Valve team member reveals "wearable computing" hints

Michael Abrash is a legendary programmer. He has worked at Microsoft helping to develop Windows NT 3.1, and helped to develop the original Quake with John Carmack at id Software. He's now working at Valve and today he wrote a lengthy post on his newly launched blog where he talks about his career and why working at Valve is so different from his previous gigs.

The post is well worth reading but the heart of the article is when Abrash talks about what he is developing right now at Valve. He is working on a hardware project which he says is using "wearable computing" as its basis. He states:

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.

He also writes about the challenges that would have to be solved for such a hardware setup to actually work, especially in software and UI. Abrash says his work has just started and may not even be released as a commercial project, saying, "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."

It will be interesting to see what Valve's ideas are like compared to Google's Project Glass which was revealed earlier this month.

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I'm still not sold on this kind of hardware. I'm glad, though, that Abrash points out that there are still many challenges yet to be solved.
I think one of the biggest problems may not be technological at all, but rather tied to human affinities. It can't be denied that our interaction with the world is deeply tied to hand-eye coordination within fixed dimensions. Both the hands and eyes consume disproportionately large areas of the brain and, when used in conjunction, utilize almost every structure of the brain. So while computing is clearly becoming more and more mobile, it's also very clear why the touchscreen is such a natural interface.
On the other hand, humans can be incredibly adaptable (at least when the want to be), so this trend in wearable devices may end up being perfect for some people. Ultimately, however, the mass appeal will depend on to what extent the hands and eyes can coordinate in natural ways.

The shock when I read new hardware and "Windows NT 3.1" in the same article . Valve has unscrewed a valve somewhere (in a good way), and opened up to the public somewhat recently. Lets hope they keep their new blog up to date.