All good things
Anyone who has followed my blog this semester will probably conclude that I am a much better storyteller than logician. Perhaps I am simply too good at presenting the cold, hard facts. They come out perfectly cold and hard—and boring. So, I will go with the grain and tell you one of those look-how-cool-my-technology-is stories. You know what I mean; like where that guy diagnoses a horse while driving his car, or those researchers redesign the hospital, or all kinds of tangents we rode while lounging on the quiet second floor of Wolstein (…talking shoes, good grief). Let me present quickly my final prediction for how mobile ubiquitous computing will ultimately look—the tale of a single device.
Thanks to the wonders of genetic engineering, I have 20/20 vision, but that doesn’t stop me from utilizing my most important tool—my glasses. Though I can see perfectly fine, I feel totally blind without them. I wake up in the morning, and putting them on is my only instinct. Veiled in those thin wire frames is the most sophisticated computer I own. Oh, there’s my daily schedule hovering on the left, with the clock above it, a menu next to that. As soon as the glasses detect that I stand, the lights turn to a dim glow. They do many things like that without my command. As soon as I enter the bathroom, a fancy little message pops up reminding me to take the antibiotic. I’m glad I put that in there. I tend to be really absent-minded, but these glasses don’t make me show it.
While I brush my teeth, I listen to my voice messages, downloaded through the national wireless internet and transmitted into the skull just above the ear, which is a very good conductor of sound. I quickly respond to some through the microphone embedded at the bottom of the frames. This is also one way that I can give commands to the glasses and even the outside world in most cases. If I say “Computer, make me a cup of coffee, decaf,” the glasses recognize that I am in my own house and redirect the signal to the coffeepot in the kitchen.
It is a chilly day, so I start the heater in the car, which is down in the parking garage, while I eat my breakfast. I carry no keys. A simple glance opens everything I am allowed to enter. I am in a rush to get down from the ninth floor. I call the elevator on my way there. It opens just as I walk up to it. The car which I ride to the train station has been degraded to little more than a moving box. All the gizmos of the past have faded into the glasses.
As I board the train, I glance into the “eye” of its computer. My glasses give the computer a scan of my eyes, which it checks for a math, so that a stolen pair of glasses won’t work for anyone. The $1.50 charge pops-up. Normally, I would have to say “Charges accepted” in order for the transaction to complete, but I put the train system on a trusted list. Most people do, but I can tell the ones who don’t, mumbling as they board (darn tourists). There is this shady-looking fella behind me. I tap the ID button and look back. His name pops-up along with a court-imposed warning that he is a convicted felon. It isn’t polite to stare, but I’ll keep an eye on him. I tap the button on my temple to activate my rearview cameras, and a screen appears near the bottom of my vision, showing everything behind my head. In the meantime, I listen to some music, make some calls, and watch the news on the web, all in perfect 3D. The glasses easily generate their own power through the movement of the head, which moves quite a lot.
Of course, work is whole world of its own. My glasses let me in the door. There are no computer monitors anywhere in the building; we all wear our own. It is quite useful for one to see and hear anything, anytime, anywhere. Virtual meetings and instant collaboration are just two of these advantages.
Internet databases hold all information. Industrial computers move the structures and devices around us. But they are just the dumb computers told to do things by the glasses on everyone’s face, which are, in turn, under the constant control of every user. From the beginning of time, all technology has been the slave of humanity. For a time it got away from us; now we put the whip back in our grip.
Which device ultimately becomes the supreme interface of all computing will likely depend on history and chance, but I wouldn’t rule out the glasses. The final mobile computer will be small. To do that, the computer must be near the mouth, so that it is voice activated and does not need a keyboard. It must be near the eye so that the screen will be small, but look huge. It must be attached to the body to free the hands and not get easily lost. It could be embedded in the body, but that would require unpleasant surgery. And most people like to remove themselves from technology from time to time. Finally, it must fade into the background of standard social fashions.
What medium could possibly fill this full tab other than a high-tech pair of spectacles? The future may be right at the tip of your nose.