Valve confirms Wearable Computing R&D

Valve has confirmed that it is doing its own research into wearable computing, joining a club that includes Google's Project Glass and Nokia R&D, though the company has warned not to expect a commercial product any time soon. Managing director Michael Abrash revealed his pet project this week, researching the future of hardware and software for wearable, "Terminator vision" style devices that could possibly be a direction Valve might follow.

"What does a wearable UI look like, and how does it interact with wearable input? How does the computer know where you are and what you're looking at? When the human visual system sees two superimposed views, one real and one virtual, what will it accept and what will it reject? To what extent is augmented reality useful – and if it's useful, to what extent is it affordably implementable in the near future? What hardware advances are needed to enable the software?" Michael Abrash, managing director, Valve

As Google said of Project Glass, however, we shouldn't expect anything physical straight away. "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" Abrash warns. "It's an initial investigation into a very interesting and promising space, and falls more under the heading of research than development."

Still, Abrash doesn't necessarily believe that a commercial launch for a wearable device need be too far in the future. "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" he argues.

That fits with timelines we've heard from wearables-components manufacturers like Lumus, which suggested such hardware could be on the market as soon as 2013. Then, OEMs with backgrounds in smartphones, gaming and entertainment were tipped, with pricing that could range from $200 upward.