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Google Glass launches new age of personal computing

Desktops, laptops and even tablets will soon be passe; Google Glass is paving the way toward wearable and then body-based systems

July 5, 2012 06:04 AM ET

Computerworld - When one talks of computers today, he or she could be referring to a laptop, a desktop or maybe even a smartphone.

Sergey Brin, CEO and co-founder of Google, wears Google Glasses
Sergey Brin, CEO and co-founder of Google, wears Google Glasses during a product demonstration at the Google I/O 2012 conference last month. (Image: Stephen Lam / Reuters)

However, if Google's latest plan stays on track, the definition of a computer could broaden significantly.

At its Google I/O developers conference in San Francisco, the company threw a lot of effort behind the unveiling of a prototype of its so-called Google Glass computerized eyeglasses.

The Android-powered eyeglasses are equipped with a processor, memory, camera, GPS sensors and a display screen.

Google co-founder and CEO Sergey Brin said the Google Glass development effort is all about "doing brand new risky technological things that are really about making science fiction real."

In that world of science fiction, he said, computers won't always look like what we now expect from the term. The next generation of computers won't necessarily sit on one's desk or lap or in one's hand. The devices may not have a have a monitor and/or keyboard.

Someday - probably in the near future - computers will be worn, whether incorporated into glasses, or in a piece of jewelry such as a bracelet or something else, analysts say.

"Google Glass changes the way we will look at computers," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. "It isn't just research, it's a workable prototype."

"Glass serves to stretch the technology ecosystem to even greater lengths, Moorhead said. "I believe that in five years we will see many different form factors and brands of wearable computers. We will have computers embedded in our glasses of course, but also in our jewelry and watches."

Moorhead noted that the U.S. military, especially the Special Forces units, already use wearable computers to for communications and GPS tasks. That technology hasn't yet reached consumer or business users, he added.

Google's research efforts could hasten the mainstream use of the technologies.

"As we see real devices in use that we previously saw only in movies and books, it will expand the possibilities even further," said Moorhead. "We can go beyond the glasses and visualize computers in our jewelry, in our watches and even inside our bodies."

Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT, said such new computing form factors are an extension of the current mobile trend, taking GPS-enabled smartphones, growing compute power and multiple new communications capabilities to the next level.

"It's the ever smaller and ever more powerful mobile technologies," he added. "It's about the things we used to see and think about in relation to sci-fi novels or Star Trek. The idea of highly mobile and highly powerful computers is extremely intriguing."

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