Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Bringing cyberspace and day to day life and reality together as one

Posted in business and convergent technologies by Timothy Platt on May 27, 2013

I first began formally writing to this blog in mid-September, 2009 and one of my first topics of discussion in it was the embryonic-stage online and cyber-spatial arena of virtual reality. See, for example:

Business, Technology and Judgment,
Connecting, Networking, Accessing Computer Power and Information Everywhere All the Time,
Virtual Reality in Search of the Killer App, and
Will Any Single Killer App Define Virtual Reality?:

with all coming from October of that year.

In many respects this posting can be considered a direct continuation of, and a status update to those earlier writings. And my focus of attention here is on the hardware side of virtual reality, and of connection to and even emersion in cyberspace that more effective online connectivity through it would enable. I wrote in my earlier postings, of software and of killer apps that might compel larger numbers of people to actively embrace the virtual reality option, until a threshold of users were reached and passed and this became a basic mainstay of the cyberspace experience. I still do not see an immediate software killer app that would drive this increased involvement and mainstreaming. But I do see a hardware enabler arising that will change the way that we connect online, and at a whole new level of ubiquitous and here-and-now immediacy and intimacy: inexpensive, lightweight, powerful and even stylish virtual reality glasses and headsets.

Early, primitive headsets and goggles have been around for a number of years – heavy and awkward, functionally limited and limiting for doing anything else without taking them off, and very expensive. The best point of comparison examples that I can think of for them can be found in the early development and evolution of the cell phone, with the first huge, ungainly “brick phones” as they were called. And there were very few cell towers out there so these first cell phones only worked at all with in a limited and spotty assortment of locations with multiple blind spots and dead areas even where coverage was offered.

The simultaneous and mutually supporting development of smaller and lighter and more powerful cell phones and now smart phones and more, and wider and more far-reaching connectivity systems with development of cell tower support in more and more places, made wider acceptance and adaptation of cell phone technology possible, and particularly as this increase in device value and functionality range where these phone work, was coupled with progressively lower costs to the buyer.

The early virtual reality goggles and even full helmets that have dominated this arena have always been too limited in functionality, to awkward and cumbersome to use and too expensive, to ever permit their mainstreaming – so there has never been, for example, any real incentive to develop software or sharable information content specifically for them, outside of narrow specialization areas. And this brings me to the reason why I have decided to write this update posting: the development of Google Glass, Google’s lightweight and affordable next generation alternative that is intended to bring this basic technology to a mainstream audience and market. (For a perhaps only briefly online link from Google, announcing this new offering, see their Glass – what it does announcement.)

I first wrote of this type of development approximately four years before it is at least currently, as of this writing, scheduled to be publically available for purchase and use. But I freely admit that many have seen something like this coming for a long time now. Still, when Glass goes public and starts appearing online and in bricks and mortar stores as a purchase option, the world will change. I am not predicting with that, that Google Glass will automatically become the major, best of breed and largest market share holder entry for virtual reality and online connectivity glasses. Other businesses will start offering their own entries and alternatives as quickly as they can – and I add it is even possible that another company will rush an alternative to market before Google can bring its first model of Glass out.

• The world will however change, and certainly in how cyberspace and online connectivity are concerned because marketplace expectations and demands will change, and the public understanding as to what “online” means and should mean.
• This happened when cell phone gave way to smart phones and with tablets and other small and portable online connection points added into that mix. Online suddenly became a much more immediately and intimately here-and-now experience and it was redefined in the minds of many to reflect that new and emerging reality.
• This will simply take that already developing trend to a next step.

Google released an extensive set of guidelines to software and online developers who wish to build apps for the Glass platform, on Monday, April 15, 2013. As of that date, their intent has been to go public with a marketable product at or around the end of this year, 2013. They have already started selling pre-release, early stage but functional copies of Glass to developers for $1,500 if they signed up for this last year, when this offer was first tendered to the software development community. And certainly by the technology standards of today, and as of this writing, the specs offered for a first release Glass are impressive. This product looks like it will compel a mainstreaming of immediately interactive and always visible wearable computers that no wrist-band or clothing-embedded technology could ever match for level of consumer impact.

I began this posting by citing some software-oriented postings that I wrote and added to this blog very early on. And I finish it by returning to software again, and with a focus here on how developments in software drive the evolution and development of hardware, and on how development of new hardware capabilities drives software development too.

For an historical parallel, when the World Wide Web first went publically live, and the first public release web browsers were offered for download, there were no web sites available that were designed and built specifically for this new arena: the Web, or with any of its real potential built for.

I remember when this happened and when I was still using a pre-release beta test version of the first NCSA Mosaic browser (I had I think, a 0.7 release on this as my first version there.) Well over half of the “web” sites that were up, were in fact just directory lists of links for finding older-technology, pre-web Telenet sites, that were difficult to find as this was before any effective general purpose online search tools had been invented of any type. We are at that same stage now for wearable computer technology such as Google Glass. At first, users will primarily be accessing and connecting to the same standard types of sites and resources available and used now, still pre-Glass. But when this comes out and begins to sell and go mainstream, a whole new class of online sites and tools and other resources will emerge, designed and developed and built and offered strictly for the computer/communications device as lightweight, always worn and on glasses/headset.

I stated in one of my above-cited earlier postings that I do not know what the first software killer app will be for these devices and I repeated here that I still don’t know that. The one prediction that I feel I can safely make on that, is that whatever it is it will emerge from this effort to build for this new platform and into the software and online experience vacuum that its emergence will create. And as I noted in the title of this posting, these devices will in many respects “bring cyberspace and day to day life and reality together as one” for all of us.

I am sure to be returning to this discussion in future postings. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and its continuation page.

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