Valve's Mystery Hardware Project is "Wearable Computing," Developer Says

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News Posted: Sun, Apr 15 2012 10:49 AM
Have you ever had one of those moments where you're bracing yourself for a bang only to end up hearing a soft thud? I have. In fact, it just happened. I was excited when rumors started swirling around a "Steam Box" console Valve was reportedly working on, and while the company's marketing director, Doug Lombardi, essentially told us all to cool our jets, I found renewed excitement in the fact that Valve recently posted a job listing in search of electrical engineers to join a "highly motivated team that's doing hardware design." Was the Steam Box back on the table? And if not, was Valve working on something infinitely cooler? A real life gravity gun, perhaps? Sadly, no.

Valve developer Michael Abrash let the cat out of the bag in a blog post. So what exactly is this mystery project? Wearable computing (*thud*).

"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)," Abrash explains. "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. 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, 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."

Perhaps I'm being pessimistic, but such a thing already exists, and it's called real life. When you step outside -- which is where this wearable computing project comes into play -- there are already tons of objects and NPCs to interact with, destructible environments, and ultra high resolution graphics. To me, wearable computing sounds a bit hokey, but even if it didn't, we're talking about a technology that's a decade or more away. I would have preferred a Steam Box, not because I think the world needs yet another console, but because it could potentially get a whole new generation of console gamers excited about PC games, and because it's a realistic project. Wearable computing? By Abrash's own admission, it may never see the light of day.

"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 being announced at E3. It’s an initial investigation into a very interesting and promising space, and falls more under the heading of research than development," Abrash states.

What are your thoughts about wearable computing? Do you share my same grumpy attitude towards the technology, or do you see real promise here?
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acarzt replied on Sun, Apr 15 2012 1:18 PM

This could just be classic Valve misdirection. They love being cryptic about messages and things like that. I don't think this is what they are really after, but time will tell.

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3vi1 replied on Sun, Apr 15 2012 7:08 PM

>> where both computer-generated graphics and the real world are seamlessly overlaid in your view

Not gonna happen; there will be a ton of frivolous-yet-expensive lawsuits against the manufacturer every time a kid hurts his/herself because they were busy reading the overlay while walking.

I sincerely doubt Valve wants to be the first company to risk these waters.  Nintendo was so scared of this eventuality that they tied the VirtualBoy to a table-top stand instead of their original harness designs.

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?


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SMankad replied on Mon, Apr 16 2012 12:45 AM

First off, Half Life 2: Episode 3, please!

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AKnudson replied on Mon, Apr 16 2012 3:26 AM

Hey paul. i just so happened to be looking over about 6 articles that connect to this subject today and then i decided to visit for the first time in a little over a month.

Bare with me.

I assume yo have heard of the PC gaming periferal that was a coalition between sixense and Valve? Its known as the Razer Hydra. sixense is a company that was started by a team of researchers who wanted to see how much they could do to meld real life into computing. Their main source of inspiration and their "genus" is named Pranav Mistry he became famous when he took two old mice (so old they had roller balls) and took the two little rollers that when moved by the ball registered with the computer. he hooked four together in a glove and then wrote an intuitive computer program to track your hand motions, by just attaching strings to the rollers. it cost less then ten dollars and looked like ***.

He then moved on to project able/ manipulable imaging. sounds fun but its really just a web cam, microphone, projector, colored caps and your smart phone. ( yes colored expo marker caps, he grew up in india thrift is his middle name)

its can do some pretty amazing stuff and it only costs about 350$ to set up. granted you look like you had a stroke just by wearing it, its still some really exciting technology if it ever does get out of R&D Their are two videos about it on just sort by most viewed and click the one with sixth sense in the title.

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