'Minority Report' in waiting: Wearable tech on the cusp of going mainstream?

If past is prologue, wearable computers will soon be the dominant technology we all use. Even if the hype's getting ahead of the reality, a nascent market is notching measurable progress.

Prototype glasses from Atheer are designed to create a digital layer in space. Atheer

Years from now, will historians pinpoint 2013 as one of those myriad present-at-the-creation moments when a new technology entered the mainstream? When it comes to wearable computing, we're not there yet. But it seems that we're getting close.

Asked last week to assess the state of this nascent market, Apple's Tim Cook described wearable computing as profoundly interesting , which might qualify as understatement of the year.

Perhaps more than any other of its many skunkworks, Google's Project Glass has fired imaginations about the prospects -- as well as the perils -- of wearable computing. Hype aside, we're likely getting ahead of ourselves, as Google Glass remains the proverbial work in progress and is only available to a few thousand developers and costs a steep $1,500.

But these are the early days, and a lower-priced, commercial version is expected in the first half of next year. Meanwhile, the prospect of big scores down the road recently convinced a couple of big Silicon Valley venture firms -- Kleiner Perkins and Andreessen Horowitz -- to team with Google Ventures to create an investment group known as the Glass Collective . The idea: Offer seed money to Glass startups and presumably create the sorts of cool apps which will eventually convince consumers to plunk down their credit cards and buy a pair.

That's just part of the story. While Google has received most of the attention, there are sundry other entrants, some big, some small, who are already jumping in. If their timing's right and this turns into one of tech's next big things, Silicon Valley may be minting several more multimillionaires in the near future. If not, there will be ample fodder for the likes of "Saturday Night Live" to parody our nerdaliciousness. Meanwhile, check out the roster of who's doing what in our accompanying image gallery.

 

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