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Valve's New Hardware Project is Wearable "Steam Glasses"

| 17 Apr 2012 02:50
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"Think Terminator vision."

Last month, the internet was aflutter with rumors of Valve wedging itself into the console market with something called the "Steam Box," a mythological slab of gaming hardware that was swiftly debunked within the week by the company's VP of marketing. That, it seemed, was enough to squash any further speculation, at least until a recent job posting seeking an electronics engineer to help "develop hardware," spun things right back into gear. Well, after over six weeks of fruitless guesswork by the unwashed masses, Valve's Michael Abrash has come clean about his, and his company's, work on a nifty set of prototype glasses that he refers to as "wearable computing," (probably) answering this hardware hullaballoo once and for all.

"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)," wrote Abrash on his personal blog. "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."

Before you get too excited, Abrash warns that Valve's work on this new venture is strictly "R&D," which is to say, a whole lot of tinkering with possibilities and toying with options. "It doesn't in any way involve a product at this point," he writes, "and won't for a long while, if ever - so please, no rumors about Steam glasses being announced at E3."

Still, Abrash is optimistic about the possibilities, speculating that wearable computing will become the norm within the foreseeable future. "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," he explains, "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."

As for who's figuring that out, it looks like Valve is trying to recruit a larger team than that solitary electronics engineer posting may suggest. Abrash compares the creation process to when he essentially had to "figure out" Quake from scratch, and much like then, needs hands and brains aplenty to help out. "The team has grown, and we're making good headway," he writes about the glasses, "but there's a vast amount of stuff to investigate, and we need more smart people. Lots more smart people. Hardware people, software people, firmware people, game people, UI people, just plain great programmers and problem solvers, industrial designers, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, systems programmers, computer vision people, optics engineers, you name it."

If your skill set falls somewhere within that catalog, you can email Abrash directly about earning a position on his team here. As for the rest of us, it looks like we'll be waiting between three and twenty years before wearing Gordon Freeman on our face.

Source: Abrash's Blog

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