A defining image

Turner Whitted, who is a great computer graphics pioneer, and was one of my mentors when I was a young pup starting out in the field, asked me a question today. “How come,” he said, “when Thad Starner [pictured below left] has been walking around for twenty years wearing augmented reality glasses every day, suddenly it’s a big deal just because he’s now at Google?”

My answer was that it is because Sergei Brin [pictured below right] is now wearing them. And the significance of this is that it’s no longer about the glasses, but rather the implication that Google will deliver all of your digital content right to your physical reality.

It’s like the difference between the Tablet PC and the iPad. The former was a portable computer without a keyboard. The latter is a pipeline for people to get games, videos and movies. Nobody would care about the device if they didn’t crave the ecosystem of content it can provide.

It is, in the end, all about the content. After all, if there were no movies or TV shows, a cinema or a television would be, at most, a vaguely intriguing artifact.

It can be argued that the image of Sergei in those glasses — which has recently become a ubiquitous visual in some technology circles — is a defining image of our historical moment. Not because it is an image that announces technology, but rather because, to those who understand what it means, it is an image that announces power.

One Response to “A defining image”

  1. sally says:

    Power, meh. Power to fall on your bottom because you can’t see anything!

    http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2012/04/10/google-glasses-heads-up/

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