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A Corrective Prescription For Reality
April 14, 2012 9:31 AM   Subscribe

It looks like the speculation on a near-future market for wearable computers is already heating up. However, the first competitor to the recently-announced Google Glass project comes as a surprise to almost everyone: Valve, the gaming company renowned for Half Life, Portal, and many others, in addition to their digital distribution heavyweight Steam. This will be their first foray into hardware of any kind.
posted by gilrain (50 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
I just want A Thing That I Wear On My Wrist that can do anything. I've wanted this since I was five. Make it happen people!
posted by The Whelk at 9:33 AM on April 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


I have more faith in Valve than I have in Google when it comes to them producing something great that doesn't violate your privacy on so many levels. Also, Valve's Gabe Newell is nothing but a class act who has consistently showed that Valve takes its customers' concerns seriously and doesn't hide behind a bureaucracy.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 9:42 AM on April 14, 2012 [17 favorites]


Very good read. Sounds like a fun place.
posted by shothotbot at 9:45 AM on April 14, 2012


Also, there is also the recent kickstarter bluetooth epaper watch called Pebble.
posted by zabuni at 9:50 AM on April 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


Even if Valve's own product flops, they still gain valuable early experience building games for wearables, which results in Steam fairing much better on whatever wearable hardware eventually succeeds. This is a very good business decision by Valve.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:51 AM on April 14, 2012


I feel like this is either going to be cool beyond belief or else stupid and useless.
posted by jcreigh at 9:51 AM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Cool beyond belief or else stupid and useless.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 9:54 AM on April 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


One interesting possibility once you have head mounted displays AND Kinnect style sensors in the wild: Kinect + HMD Virtual Reality
posted by Artw at 9:57 AM on April 14, 2012


I just want A Thing That I Wear On My Wrist that can do anything. I've wanted this since I was five. Make it happen people!

I keep getting tempted to buy the sony liveview watch, but then I read the reviews that say it basically doesn't work. There's a $200ish android thing (WIMM One) that pairs with android phones and is supposed to basically do everything you could want.

But networking is always the issue with these things. The one homogenous system where compatibility could be guaranteed, iOS, is specifically prevented from doing awesome stuff like talking to wrist-puters. The only other meaningful alternative, android, is too heterogenous to really guarantee that anything will work for more than 2 specific devices.

But man a wrist-puter would be cool
posted by Chekhovian at 10:00 AM on April 14, 2012


That was the best job advertisement I've ever read. I'm tempted to apply.
posted by ianhattwick at 10:02 AM on April 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


I feel like this is either going to be cool beyond belief or else stupid and useless. --- Well, they said the same thing about "ginger" when Kamen was trotting it out to Jobs and Bezos. They said it was going to revolutionize the world's urban centers. When it turned out just to be a scooter, it's like people hated it just because they got their hopes up.
posted by crunchland at 10:03 AM on April 14, 2012


Tactical branding question for Valve to wrestle with: do you make your wearable computing glasses look like Gordon Freeman's thick black rims?
posted by cortex at 10:12 AM on April 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


With 3G and WiFi connectivity! Now you can get cancer in your eyes as well as behind your ear!
posted by XMLicious at 10:12 AM on April 14, 2012


That was the best job advertisement I've ever read. I'm tempted to apply.

That's the idea, you know, as long as your previous job experience includes something like "designed Kinect at Microsoft" or "built self-driving car at Google", which is really the type of person they're looking for.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:27 AM on April 14, 2012


I have a goatee, and I already own a crowbar and thick glasses. This is excellent news.
posted by mhoye at 10:33 AM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's the idea, you know, as long as your previous job experience includes something like "designed Kinect at Microsoft" or "built self-driving car at Google", which is really the type of person they're looking for.

I... made some webpages with quite cool JavaScript?

Aw, fuck my luck...
posted by Artw at 10:35 AM on April 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have more faith in Valve than I have in Google when it comes to them producing something great that doesn't violate your privacy on so many levels. Also, Valve's Gabe Newell is nothing but a class act who has consistently showed that Valve takes its customers' concerns seriously and doesn't hide behind a bureaucracy.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 9:42 AM on April 14 [4 favorites +] [!]


Yeah Valve is great, the only PC game I've ever bought that was region locked used Steamworks. I'm really happy with my $60 drink coaster. And their response to my enquiries wasn't at all dismissive or hiding behind a wall of bureaucratic 'it's the publisher' nonsense. I'm sure they let that publisher use their platform for free.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 10:36 AM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


do you make your wearable computing glasses look like Gordon Freeman's thick black rims?

Or like a plumbing fitting sticking out the back of your head? :)
posted by anthill at 10:53 AM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


This sentence blew my mind:
...there are things that Gabe badly wants the company to do that aren’t happening, because no one has signed up to do them.
Whoah. Just, like, whoah. Valve is a very, very new thing in the world.
posted by Malor at 10:54 AM on April 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Unless this wearable computer comes with a copy of Episode 3, I'm not interested.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:32 AM on April 14, 2012


Valve is still a private company, right? I think so. If so...

DEAR GOD VALVE, PLEASE NEVER GO PUBLIC...
posted by symbioid at 11:32 AM on April 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


Do the google goggles provide the wearer with a perpetual porno channel?
posted by bukvich at 11:36 AM on April 14, 2012


Overlay me into the car, HAL.

Take me to the mall.

ah crap...forgot the popcorn...
posted by mule98J at 11:40 AM on April 14, 2012


Same reaction as with the Google thing - we probably need more spaces without computing. Its hard enough to sit and reflect a moment with an iPhone available in my pocket.
posted by BigBrooklyn at 12:01 PM on April 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


I ran across these guys who have had a little Android-based wireless-networked head-mounted HUD on the market for a while, for skiiers. It doesn't have a camera or gaze tracking, so it can't do AR overlays, but it has the advantage of actually being buyable.
posted by hattifattener at 12:40 PM on April 14, 2012


This makes me wonder. When the Google announcement came, someone said it perfectly that the glasses will only show you what Google thinks you should be seeing or what your friends have liked to see previously.

Now with Valve, with fear and giddiness I think that they will only show me what is excellent, fast-paced and hilarious.

Now of course I do want my world to be excellent, fast-paced and hilarious, but I'm also worried about crossing the street.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 12:47 PM on April 14, 2012


When the Google announcement came, someone said it perfectly that the glasses will only show you what Google thinks you should be seeing or what your friends have liked to see previously.

Google has never been that kind of company. They're all about customization and always have been.
posted by empath at 1:02 PM on April 14, 2012


As awesome as this is, I have to wish it was Bethesda instead of Valve, so I could finally get a goddamn Pip-Boy.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 1:07 PM on April 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


Also, watch out for bears.
posted by Artw at 1:08 PM on April 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


If the progression of the web has taught us anything, it's that every iteration of telecommunications technology will eventually become saturated with advertising. We are a culture of buying, and our technology reflects this. The web was originally designed by anarcho-leftists to share physics research, but it is now the 21st century equivalent of the yellow pages cum shopping mall. I imagine that Google's utopian vision for augmented reality is rather like Blade Runner's depiction of floating ads projected onto every available surface.
posted by deathpanels at 1:41 PM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


, so I could finally get a goddamn Pip-Boy.

That would require some kind of link to the nanobots in your bloodstream so you could gauge your radiation level and broken limb status, no?

Plus we'd all get annoyed with Johnny Guitar pretty quickly.
posted by The Whelk at 1:43 PM on April 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


I imagine that Google's utopian vision for augmented reality is rather like Blade Runner's depiction of floating ads projected onto every available surface.

Waaay, more subtle. It'll be market slices of market slices, knowing that left handed male mefites who +The Whelk respond best to chicken (or chicken broth analog, see vegan/vegetarian subset with differences between mushroom broth and tomato broth) soup with extra carrots when they're sick so discreetly suggesting the user's possible choices for insurance provider use orange themed overlays in their website because he'll associate the colour with feeling nurtured and looked after.
posted by Phalene at 1:57 PM on April 14, 2012


Waaay, more subtle. It'll be market slices of market slices, knowing that left handed male mefites who +The Whelk respond best to chicken (or chicken broth analog, see vegan/vegetarian subset with differences between mushroom broth and tomato broth) soup with extra carrots when they're sick so discreetly suggesting the user's possible choices for insurance provider use orange themed overlays in their website because he'll associate the colour with feeling nurtured and looked after.
Except this description implies that there is intention or deliberation on behalf of the machine to determine the correct advertising for you to consume. More likely, the system will be a heuristic that assembles your digital identity from disparate sets of data about purchasing habits, eye focus, income, class, race, gender, plus all the links to your friends and family and coworkers, forming a massive network of interconnected digital consumer-selves. Really, this isn't so different from what Facebook and Google are trying to do right now, but augmented reality will provide a much larger bandwidth of data.

(I'm trying (and, at the moment, failing) to write a book about this.)
posted by deathpanels at 3:17 PM on April 14, 2012


In the future even my ADD will be digitally automated. We won't have to do nothing to get nothing done. Distraction will have never been so efficient!
posted by TwelveTwo at 4:12 PM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


That was the best job advertisement I've ever read. I'm tempted to apply.

My impression of Valve has always been that it would be a designer's special hell. "Oh, you want to design something? Well, good luck convincing a programmer to help you! The line starts other there. MWHAHAHAHAH!"
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 4:36 PM on April 14, 2012


Dear Valve: STFU with this hardware crap and gimme my g-d Halflife 3 ALREADY!
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 6:27 PM on April 14, 2012


We're never, ever going to be playing Halflife 3 are we?
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 6:28 PM on April 14, 2012


Well, again:
...there are things that Gabe badly wants the company to do that aren’t happening, because no one has signed up to do them.
HL3 has to be one of those things. Nobody at Valve wants to do it, apparently.
posted by Malor at 6:35 PM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


rather like Blade Runner's depiction of floating ads projected onto every available surface.
posted by deathpanels at 3:41 PM


Eponyfuckmylife.
posted by symbioid at 7:06 PM on April 14, 2012


TwelveTwo: "In the future even my ADD will be digitally automated. We won't have to do nothing to get nothing done. Distraction will have never been so efficient!"

It's like we created civilization to overcome the overwhelming burden of ennui, and end up with all the horrible things it wrought, and then we get a reprieve, a bon temps, if you will, and it rolled and rolled, and we got more ennui than we bargained for so we built more shit to fix THAT and then we're in a deathspiral of techdiseaseboredomfauxsocialconnectionalienatedfromtheworld and then John Zerzan is born and SAME AS IT EVER WAS.

"Here, take this pill."
posted by symbioid at 7:09 PM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Does it count if you wear your computer because you were locked out of your cabin after skinny dipping? Cause if so, I'm livin in the future, man.
posted by mannequito at 7:41 PM on April 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Is there something missing from the second sentence? Is this about Google Goggles or about Valve? Abrash says VERY CLEARLY in the article:

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 rumors about Steam glasses
posted by sophist at 8:40 PM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


If the progression of the web has taught us anything, it's that every iteration of telecommunications technology will eventually become saturated with advertising. … but it is now the 21st century equivalent of the yellow pages cum shopping mall. I imagine that Google's utopian vision for augmented reality is rather like Blade Runner's depiction of floating ads projected onto every available surface.
But on the other hand, with AR googles you could have a real-world adblock. You'll be able to remove all the actual advertisements from physical spaces before they reach your eyeballs.

Also seriously, if you don't like ads install adblock. Why not? The internet really is much nicer without ads.
posted by delmoi at 9:33 PM on April 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why not? -- I have, and do, but people who use adblock are a statistical minority. Since ads are what pay for the web, if enough people thwart that revenue stream, free stuff stops being free. I'd rather not have to pay for subscriptions to youtube and google.
posted by crunchland at 3:05 AM on April 15, 2012


Also seriously, if you don't like ads install adblock. Why not? The internet really is much nicer without ads.
The advertising side of the web is more entrenched than actual in-page ads. There's also sponsored search results, promoted articles, trending topics on twitter, links in articles to sponsors where a commercial agreement is undisclosed, and spam. It's difficult to buy an X on the web without being inundated with emails trying to up-sell you to the latest Y. Much of the profit of some very well-known ecommerce sites comes from advertising.

Plus many companies have gotten better about capturing ad views. Grooveshark recently built a system that shows you video ads before you can listen to music. Then there's Apple's iTunes, which is basically an advertising platform disguised as a media player. The cheaper model of the Kindle displays ads when you turn it off. Ads are everywhere.

The Web 2.0 / social media model is based on Google's model of luring in visitors then delivering them ads, to which Facebook added the nefarious third step, "gather personally identifiable information". Every startup in Silicon Valley is using this exact model, so we can expect to see more advertising on the web in the very near future. There's really no avoiding it, even with ad-block, unless you stick to the pleasant older sites like Metafilter.
posted by deathpanels at 9:57 AM on April 15, 2012


Metafilter's got ads (sketchy intercalated ads, even) for logged-out users, which as I understand it is what funds the site. Paid users are, like adblock-using users, a minority.
posted by hattifattener at 11:10 AM on April 15, 2012


This is almost certainly never going to be an actual thing that Valve sells. Never say never, of course, but. It's part and parcel with lots of other stuff Valve has done (bio-measurement to track game engagement by players and so on), because it interests them, and they don't have to relentlessly chase 'shareholder value' and the like. Michael Abrash says as much in his blog post.

If it ever does get productized, you can be certain the the Google version will be all about the ads, and the Valve version will be all about making your life a little bit more fun.

Unless Valve turns to the dark side, too. That would be sad, but as long as Gabe keeps running the show, I don't see it happening.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:23 PM on April 15, 2012


Why not? -- I have, and do, but people who use adblock are a statistical minority. Since ads are what pay for the web, if enough people thwart that revenue stream, free stuff stops being free. I'd rather not have to pay for subscriptions to youtube and google.
*shrug* I'm not really sure if I agree. Is the ad supported internet really such an important cultural force at this point in time? A lot of the content on youtube could be distributed via bittorrent without a central server. Google? Seems like 90% of the searches I do on google are just for a Wikipedia page anyway, with Terabyte hard drives, it would be easy to cache and index that, along with lots of other popular sites on your own machine. You could even have a torrent-like system setup to distribute changes to the index.

That said, the ads you see when you do an actual google search are probably the least annoying, since they are exactly relevant to what you're looking for at that moment. It is possible block adblock users - if they did that a lot of people would just unblock them.

A lot of the worst stuff is single page SEO crap where you do a search, get some annoying crap filled with ads. If everyone ran adblock, there wouldn't be nearly as much money in that. The Huffpo's blogspam model would be useless.
posted by delmoi at 11:09 PM on April 15, 2012


Well, look at it this way, if everyone ran adblock, Matt & co. would have to find some other way to pay the co. and pay-walls and subscription models on the web don't really have much success, as we've seen. Like I said, I'm with you, but we're a nuisance minority. If all browsers came with adblock installed automatically (not going to happen), lots of places would have to scramble to find a way to make it pay. And you'd probably see a lot more of the inline ads like youtube has, and the forced ad before videos that currently force me to turn off adblock, watch the effing ad so I can see the video, and then re-enable adblock.
posted by crunchland at 2:48 PM on April 16, 2012


I think my point is, people who are pulling in the money now would probably not just clap the dust off their hands, shrug their shoulders, and decide that it's time to close up shop and become sheep farmers in Idaho. The ad-free internet train never pulled into the station, and it never will.
posted by crunchland at 3:03 PM on April 16, 2012


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