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[GUEST POST] Ken Brosky on Smartglasses in His New Book, THE PROVING

Ken Brosky received his MFA in writing from the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Before he started his new sci-fi series, he co-wrote The Grimm Chronicles, a Brothers Grimm-inspired adventure. While research his new book, Ken fell in love with the planet Saturn, read up on CRISPR genome editing, and got waaaaaaay too into plate tectonics theory.

Smartglasses Will Be Back

by Ken Brosky

In my new sci-fi novel, The Proving, my characters rely heavily on smartglasses to fight the ghostly alien scourge that threatens humanity. The glasses, which use diodes to project directly onto the lenses, also have a small camera built into the frame between the lenses. This allows a local computer to “see” what each character is seeing and react accordingly. Sometimes, this means identifying objects. Other times, it allows the local computer to lift the “fog of war.”

For example, imagine your squad needs to investigate a building but you don’t want to get caught off-guard by anything lurking inside. The smart thing to do is secure the exterior first. So the squad spreads out, surrounding the building. As they do, their cameras send the images of the building—at different angles and directions—to the local computer, which then allows the computer to “draw” a more complete picture onto each squad member’s glasses!

None of this technology is far-fetched. In 2010, the brilliant physicist Michio Kaku experienced this technology firsthand at Fort Benning, Georgia. Google Glass, the first real smartglasses for everyday use, had a variety of programs that ran along these lines, too (albeit not quite so advanced). My goal in my book was to simply advance this technology to its logical conclusion: a pair of glasses (or contact lenses) that could project crystal-clear text and images onto the environment. For the purposes of my story, these glasses would be useful for fighting aliens.

But here in the real world, Google Glass was mainly marketed toward hip people who had no such worries about alien ghosts (yet!). It was expensive and limited in its usefulness—in fact, most news articles about the product spent a significant amount of time pointing out how the Google Glass could notify you about email and text messages. Once in a while, someone pointed out how the glasses could utilize a map. Big whoop, most people thought—instead of checking your mail on your phone, you checked it on your glasses. It wasn’t long before the term “Glasshole” started popping up.

As a brand, Google Glass was failing. It needs a reboot, everyone said. It needs better apps to appeal to working people. Editorials smugly labeled Google Glass a mistake or worse.

But what if I told you there are already useful applications for smartglasses, even with their limited technology? And what if I told you those applications could have tremendous value for your stomach?

I’m talking about farm life. I’m talking about the fact that right now, a pair of smartglasses even as simple as Google Glass would be incredibly beneficial to farmers. Let me give you a real-world example …

So it’s 11:00 at night, and my heterosexual life-mate and I are coming home from a dinner with friends. We pull into the driveway to our house in the middle of nowhere when suddenly the brights catch something looming large next to the barn just beyond the house. Then another something … then another! We creep closer and gasp.

The cows are out.

Jerseys are crafty punks. They have an incredible ability to unlatch various gates using their tongues, to say nothing of their ability to use their big, fat bodies to simply bush barricades around. And tonight, they just happened to have used their Houdini skills. Nearly a hundred are loose in our backyard.

Thankfully, cows tend to get really excited about escaping … and then they get really, really nervous. Why are we out here again? Should we go back? The world is bigger than we thought! So the cows tend to stay near the barn. The trick is corralling them back through whatever gate they managed to open. The best way to do this is go slow and surround them. The worst way to do this is fall off a hay bale and start a stampede, which I accidentally did once.

But imagine for a moment how a pair of smartglasses would work here. Not only could you use the camera in the glasses to virtually “count” the cows as you’re herding them, you could also call up a map (probably a Google Map, I suppose) and pinpoint any strays, and all you would need is a simple GPS chip in their tags. You wouldn’t even have to worry about looking weird (which seems to be a common complain about Glassholes) because cows tend to be very non-judgmental.

We can take this simple technology further. If you can virtually “tag” the animals, you can separate them easier. You can track them. You can leave notes on their “tag” and call up the notes anytime you have questions or concerns. You can send this simple data to other computers and compile it. Who was inseminated and when?

This isn’t the future. This is an opportunity for smartglasses to be effective right now, using the technology that’s already in development. I’m generalizing some of the benefits but believe me when I say the seeds of this technology have already sprouted. Google Glass will be back soon in a new iteration, and new smartglasses will appear on the market soon with 10x better apps. They’re going to change the way we raise our food, and no one raising cows is going to have to worry they look weird.

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