Tech Like 'Google Glass' Could Outsell PCs In Five Years

Smart phones have quickly become the dominant technology of our time. But as computing processors get smaller and new flexible materials come online, it's silly to think that we are going to be tapping on flat pieces of glass forever. Some analysts believe in just five years wearable computing devices like Google's new spectacles and smart watches will outsell PCs.

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Smartphones have quickly become the dominant technology of our time. Last year, more than 600 million people across the globe bought them. And as NPR's Steve Henn reports, as computing processors get even smaller and materials become even more flexible, we shouldn't expect to be tapping on flat pieces of glass forever.

STEVE HENN, BYLINE: One of the fun things about covering technology is you get to spend a lot of time talking to smart people about the future, asking what's next? Recently, I was talking to venture capitalist Jason Mendelson based in Boulder, Colorado.

JASON MENDELSON: You know, the PC was around for a long time, then laptops took over the market. Now, we've got tablets. I can already see what's going to take over the tablet. And it's this technology, you know, foldable, bendable screens that you can wear on a wrist, put in a pocket, put in your wallet, go, and that's where your compute device is.

HENN: Jason had just seen a demo for something called OLED. It's a flexible smart screen, and he was jazzed about the idea of building it into a smart watch.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SERIES, "THE DICK TRACY SHOW")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: "The Dick Tracy Show."

HENN: He's not the only one who thinks smart watches a la Dick Tracy and other wearable computing devices have a big future ahead.

JOSHUA FLOOD: My name is Joshua Flood. I'm a senior analyst at ABI Research.

HENN: Apple recently filed a patent for a smart flexible watch, and Google spent much of this week promoting its high-tech interactive glasses called Google Glass.

FLOOD: And these two devices potentially could be absolutely huge.

HENN: Joshua Flood believes that in just five years consumers will be buying hundreds of millions of these kinds of devices. If Flood's right, soon, a lot of our personal technology will feel like it came straight out of comic books or sci-fi thrillers.

Google Glass could let all of us see the world kind of like Arnold Schwarzenegger did in the movie "Terminator." Google Glass layers pictures and data right over your field of vision. It's like having a tiny screen in the corner of your eye. This week, Google released a video showing skydivers, ice sculptors and trapeze artists filming their exploits hands free simply by talking to their glasses.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: OK, Glass, take a picture.

HENN: But talking to you glasses might not be the only new odd behavior on the horizon. We could end up talking to a tiny device connected to our teeth. A startup called Sonitus could replace your earbuds with a device you slip over your molars. It uses bone conduction in your head to transmit sound. Last year, the company's founder, Amir Abolfathi, let me try one out.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED AUDIO)

HENN: Oh, my God.

I tucked the device over my teeth and suddenly Led Zeppelin invaded my brain.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED AUDIO)

HENN: Oh, that's really cool.

But really, is anyone ever going to use this?

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED AUDIO)

AMIR ABOLFATHI: There's a segment on the "Get Smart" movie that he puts a device in his mouth and he's communicating via bone conduction device through the teeth.

HENN: Ah.

Of course, Maxwell Smart also used a shoe phone. Steve Henn, NPR News, Silicon Valley.

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