When, in spring 2012, Google released its concept video for a new project that would embed a computer in a pair of eyeglasses, you would be forgiven if you were a doubter. The prospect of a pair of glasses that doubled as a display for messages and performed searches and took photographs was not only too good to be true, it sounded like something plucked out of a mid-century science fiction novel. The announcement about Project Glass sparked a firestorm. Some users were excited by the augmented-reality technology. Some thought Google was once again touting technology that wasn’t anywhere near shipping. And some thought it was an out-and-out fake.
The topic of wearable computers, like the entire category of ubiquitous computing (ubicomp), is subject to more overselling and disappointment than perhaps any other tech topic. Although most of us would love to live in a world where all of the nagging details of life could be managed by devices, we are far from being there, although it’s been discussed, debated, and lusted after for decades. Progress has, for the most part, been painfully slow. Instead of flying to work with jetpacks every day, we fume over not being able to get a picture from a smartphone to be displayed on a TV screen. As such, it’s easy to dismiss the concept as some far-off dream of science fiction fans. In truth, however, today we find ourselves on the brink of rapid innovation that is turning that dream into reality—and it may just ...