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Why wearable computing is waiting for A.I.

Mike Elgan | Feb. 10, 2014
A new app for Google Glass seems trivial, but it represents the future of wearable computing.

The purpose of this technology, of course, is to sell things to people. Knowing what's going on with people would enable companies to target advertising very precisely. But such artificial intelligence services will become commonplace and will be used for other purposes.

Instead of figuring out what you want to know by checking your calendar, as Refresh does, the apps of the future will check your calendar, your social networks, your email, your phone calls — and all of those sources for your friends and colleagues. They will monitor your history of actions and movements and much more. Then they will crunch the numbers and deliver the information you want to know.

A development that's especially relevant to Google Glass is Google's acquisition last month of a company called DeepMind, which makes artificial intelligence technology that's rapidly moving toward computers that think like a human.

To demonstrate what DeepMind is capable of doing, the company has famously turned the system loose on classic Atari arcade games. DeepMind learns how to play the games (and it does so by playing; it's not programmed to play them) and then it masters the games.

This technology could be used by Google to power a future version of Google Now, which would learn about your preferences and desires and curiosities by offering you information and watching what you do with it. Over time, it would learn exactly what kind of information you would like to know and when, then deliver it to your wearable device.

The power of artificial intelligence to figure out what you want to know (and when) is magnified when wearable computers deliver that information to you effortlessly.

With a PC, laptop, tablet or phone, you have to go looking for information — or respond to an alert by taking some action. The wearable revolution will present information without effort. The information will simply appear, then disappear. The difference is trivialized as a matter of convenience. But wearable information is not about "easy." It's about "seamless." When you take no action to learn something, the information feels like knowledge you already possess — even as you learn it.

Everyone talks about augmented reality. But it's not reality that's augmented. Reality is unaffected. It's really your mind that's augmented (with knowledge that replaces ignorance). Your experience is augmented. Your life is augmented.

That's why the wearable computing revolution is really a revolution in applying artificial intelligence and personal data to giving you information when you want it. The wearable computing part simply puts that information into your mind in the most direct way possible.


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