Valve's Michael Abrash talks 'wearable computing'

Valve's Michael Abrash talks 'wearable computing'
Seth Tipps

By Seth Tipps

April 16th 2012 at 7:22PM

Veteran developer believes realisation of sci-fi tech possible in three to five years

Valve's Michael Abrash has revealed that he is developing prototype 'wearable computing' hardware in a blog post on the company website.

"By 'wearable computing' I mean mobile computing where both computer-generated graphics and the real world are seamlessly overlaid in your view," he said, "there is no separate display that you hold in your hands (think Terminator vision)."

Citing enhanced demand for "computing available in more places", Abrash, a veteran of the original Doom and Quake, thinks this is "the most valuable thing I could do at Valve."

"It all started with Snow Crash," he said, refering to Niel Stephenson's 1992 science fiction novel.

In Snow Crash, much of the action takes place in the 'metaverse'; a virtual reality successor to the internet, in which those who use physical access points are stigmatized.

This isn't the first mention of wearable computers at Valve.

In an interview with Penny Arcade, Valve head Gabe Newell talked about the project.

"A lot of these systems tend to allow you to overlap on a per-pixel basis the sort of real world with the virtual world," he said, adding that these technologies were more speculative than other solutions.

But Abrash thinks that wearable computing will be the standard in the next twenty years.

"I’m pretty confident that platform shift will happen a lot sooner than 20 years," he said.

"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."

He may very well be right.

Many have drawn comparisons to Google's recently unveiled Project Glass; a set of glasses that displays a data overlay, providing context-sensitive information as the user goes about their day.

Whatever the future, Valve plans to be ready.

"If we have to sell hardware we will," said Newell.

"We think it’s important enough that if that’s what we end up having to do then that’s what we end up having to do."