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'Data glasses': The next big thing in human-computer interaction

Human-computer interaction has had a rather dull past, but it has a very bright future, and that future is coming sooner than you might think. 

Once upon a time, computers were entirely new.  For about 30 years afterward, it took special training to be able to interact with a computer. For about another 30 years, the computer became accessible to many of us with moderate training, using 2D graphic user interfaces (GUIs), a keyboard, and a 2D pointing device like a mouse or a trackpad. Recently, multi-touch and 3D cameras like the Microsoft Xbox Kinect sensor are allowing people to interact with computers in ways so intuitive that toddlers and the elderly are ready adopters.

Opportunities abound for us to interact with computers in ways that are much better for productivity, communication, and entertainment. What are the 'big ideas' in this space?

Virtual reality, as an idea, has been in the popular culture for quite a long time. A newer idea is 'augmented reality,' which allows you to see what is actually around you. It uses technologies that might be useful to you, like geo-tagging and computer vision to overlay interactive visualizations, superimposed on your view of the 'real' world.

Perhaps the most desirable presentation of augmented reality would be through a pair of intelligent eyeglasses. This set of technologies has been called "head-mounted displays.\ A street-level term for such technology might be 'data glasses.'

This has been a hard nut to crack, but it is cracking. Tiny laser arrays are evolving to generate imagery, and free-form optics are being developed to bend these images from earpieces back into the eyes in registration with the outer world. Tiny cameras and embedded computer vision algorithms, connected to web sources of data, can figure out what's going on around you as a seed for 'augmented' content. Those cameras could also see what your hands are doing, so that you can interact.

 

The author's affiliation with The MITRE Corporation is provided for identification purposes only, and is not intended to convey or imply MITRE's concurrence with, or support for, the positions, opinions or viewpoints expressed by the author.