Vince's Contact Lenses, or VCLs, were one of the projects Vince brought with him to the Family of Man. They are simply my impression of what cell phones could be at the present time, if the technology could be marketed. As such, there is no science fiction involved. They are wearable computers.
Out of his shirt pocket he pulled a slightly large pair of what looked like aviatorís sunglasses. As he put them on, he offered another pair to Sam, along with a small box the size of a large cell phone.
"Iíve been working on these for a long time. Just tap the side ... here," he said, showing Sam what he meant.
Sam did, and then jumped a bit, as he saw a video image, like a computer screen projected in the bottom right quadrant of his view.
"Itís my combination, wearable computer, cell phone, iPod, webcam, etc. When they are close enough they can communicate by RFID. Further off, they can work via cell technology. With Stephenís help I can probably make them function long distance via satellite. Will that help us to Ďkeep in touchí Tanya?"
"Why not try including some AI language translation algorithms as well?" Abu added.
"And shrink that computer," Ari said.
"I didnít have the money to get it smaller," Vince apologized.
"You do now," Stephen joined in.
"We can call them ĎVinceís Contact Lensesí!" Tanya said happily, "You know ... keep in touch ... contact ...?" (pg 102)
HVCLs are the improved versions of the VCLs that involve "hyper" technology.
Vince methodically wrapped everything he could get his hands on in every imaginable form of hyperfabric. There was a pile of discards still over in the far corner of the room. An onlooker would have thought Vinceís team was doing Tai Chi exercises, or practicing Star Wars light saber attack techniques. They pointed the devices forward, backward, upward, and downward and searched for any detectable phenomena. Vince had sensors on the devices, on the people, and all over the building. Finally, pointing some of the smaller wrapped lasers at the floor of the lab in unison turned out to be the charm. The sensors on the wrappings were able to indicate when another wrapped laser was on or off. That day he called Ari. Maybe he was a little over excited, after having worked all night, because they said he was hopping up and down with his assistants like some crazies in a mosh pit. The video clip to prove it was still in the "humor" section of TheBook, much to Vinceís chagrin.
"Fine. Now you can improve your VCLs," was all Ari said, then he went back to his theory and Vince started building the new communications technology, the hyperVCLs or HVCLs.
Two weeks later Ari was in his office as usual, and a messenger delivered a special package from Yen in Vietnam. Unwrapping it was a pain, and he finally just cut off the end with a pair of scissors. Inside was a new embroidered tee-shirt, with "Ariís First HyperLaw" in gold, on a gray shirt, with his "face" above it in black. "In the presence of a gravitational force, hyperspace bends so that any two points on the surface of a concentric sphere, are within hyperdistance š of each other at the center of the sphere." Of course, the "law" was so long that Yen continued it under the armpit and onto the back. Heíd have to try to shorten it a bit.
It sounded a bit like standard sci-fi worm hole stuff for aliens traveling through the galaxy, but Ari was not thinking along those lines. He and Vince used it to create the HVCLs. The little laser lights set off a string of vibrations in the dark matter atoms of the wrapped hyperthreads, that generated waves or particle beams towards the nearest large center of gravity, which was the center of the earth. The wrapped tube of hyperthreads could also detect those vibrations at the center of gravity, and thus receive a "message." It acted like an acoustical whispering gallery, with a dome shaped roof. A speaker far away, on the other side of the room, could be heard more clearly than one nearby, only this room was the entire earth.
Ari understood the necessary frequencies, and the required patterns of hyperthreads wrapped around the core of the device, but those details are available in TheBook and wonít be described here. At first, Stephen had wanted to commercialize this project too, but Sam and the others thought the Family should hold on to this technology themselves for a while. (pg 364)
Wikipedia has a background information article on wearable computers.
MIT Media Labs has been at the forefront of research in the field.
Symbol Technologies had a version in 2006 that is a little clunky, but works.
I wonder what it looks like now?
Notes - Contax
The Fifth Prophet is a "near future sci-fi" novel, and when I began writing in 2007 the "contax" were much more fictional than scientific. Although I knew they were coming, they were not here yet. I took what I knew from scientific articles and military applications and extrapolated. Two centuries later, for the characters in Time Travelers Are Schizophrenic, Weeds of Eden, and Singularities Of The Soul Of Stephen Xi, the "contax" are the common bionic enhancements of the human species. After explaining the place of the "contax" in the storyline, I will include comments from my notes and links to the developing state of the real thing.
The "contax" were invented by Vince Duby, one of the first apprentices, in The Fifth Prophet. They began as "Vinceís Contact Lenses" or "VCLs" and were simply dark glasses with embedded computer displays and wireless connections to a pocket computer. No mic or ear phones were needed since Vince could focus the sound waves and transmit in an arc from mouth to lens, and from lens to ear.
A few years later, when the war breaks out, the VCLs have smaller computers and use Stephenís satellites for long distance communications, secure Family web access activated only in the presence of the owner by detecting the RFID chip, no screens (the projected light is bent in an arc from the forehead to the eye). They include language translation features, and they automatically read another personís RFID chip and display hints, making personal interaction easier.
Within a week the baseball hat and bandana models were introduced Ė FoM didnít want all its members walking around with dark glasses like MIB. Six months after the start of the war and the discoveries of the hyperthreads, the contax incorporated their advanced properties and became known as "HVCLs", hyperthreaded Vinceís contax lenses. They accessed FoMís global network hyperpoints, the computers were faster and became embedded in the clothing (see hypersuits), and the language translation worked instantly. FoM shared the technology with the world, but kept some aspects to itself.
By the time of Dr. Sievaahdra Jesstar Aaouen in Time Travelers Are Schizophrenic, "... the acronym, HVCL, was almost two centuries old and everyone simply called them contax. They were embedded in his earlobes, as was the most popular style among the FoM, and the lenses were bio-extensions of his own retinas. Mankind no longer viewed the world as in the older days, now that they had bio-engineered themselves the eyes of hawks and owls to enhance their power. ... Siv answered in his public contact voice ... less than a whisper, more like ventriloquism, and the usual level of conversation by FoM. Even though their cellfones were also bio-embedded now, non-FoM were louder. The secret, kept by all FoM, was that their connections were gravity core enhanced and used Bosronovís hyper-physics to provide communications anywhere on the planet, or between the planets. As long as a gravity well was available, those communications were instant. They should have shared that technology with the rest of mankind years ago, but the founding fathers had voted against it, and now it was too late. They couldnít tell the three worlds how different they were, that they could group together, that they could almost think together. As it was, many people considered them outsiders, and increasing those tensions now would be unwise. In addition to that, there was TheBook, full of their collected wisdom, and available to Family members through the contax at any time. Years ago, Siv worked on some historical sims in TheBook."
Dr. Aaouen is a creator of emotisims, small scale virtual reality environments that individuals often experience through their contax. "... Siv adjusted his contax to duplex mode so that he could superimpose the historical material in front of his right eye, and still view the current world through his left. He would be recording his own run so that he could merge it with the draft of the sim, which was of Sam recording his morning run. ... a play within a play, or maybe a playwright stuck inside a mirrored box. The recording of Samís run would allow him to hear the old traffic noises, and see the forest creatures just as Sam had. ... he compared the draft version of the sim to the tape, so he didnít need to run the sim today. He could edit discrepancies when they appeared. Half of Siv remained in the present, working on his simulation. Half of Siv immersed itself in the past."
Commonly used features of the contax are the sunglass, nightvision and telescopic components. Zooming the contax for distance, or eagling, occurs frequently in the stories, as does the use of the nightvision capabilities.
In the beginning of Weeds Of Eden we see that the strong verbal and visual connections the contax provide can entangle people during pivotal moments, as when Kunnigunde Wolf, the poet, fleeing Earth, experiences the death of her lover Dr. Aaouen, through his contax. This same horrific magic of the contax is magnified a million-fold when those escaping on the Fleet experience the final moments of their loved ones left behind through the contax.
In this same scene we begin to glimpse another consequence of this technology, the growing confusion as humanityís other powers interact with the capabilities of their technological communications systems.
The main characters in Singularities Of The Soul Of Stephen Xi and not members of the Family, and have no use for the advanced features of the contax. Stavinci uses his contax mainly for musical diversion, while Stephen studies philosophy.
The Science behind the Fiction
These are some of the articles I looked at for background. I intend to add more recent material soon.
[Vol 4, #298 Jan 11, 2002] "Speech Recognition's Next
Iteration" IBM Research is working on ways to vastly improve
speech recognition tech, including sw that can read the many
nuances of pronunciation and acoustics as well as contextual
interpretation. Current speech recognition systems are limited
[Vol 4, #318 Mar 4, 2002] "Augmented Reality" AR is
tech designed to supplement one's view of the world through
the overlay of digitized data such as text, 3D animation,
graphics, and sound. A wearable AR prototype developed by Columbia
U--the Mobile Augmented Reality ...
[Vol 4, #323 Mar 15, 2002] "Point, Shoot and Translate
Into English" A new tech affords quick translation of foreign
text via a wireless phone or palmtop with a digital camera. The
camera captures an image--such as a sign, train schedule,
or menu--and the user frames the text. The image is compressed
and routed to ...
[Vol 4, #323 Mar 15, 2002] "The Sound of Words" The high-tech industry is making huge strides in speech recognition
sw now that computers are powerful enough to handle the tech,
and now that the VoiceXML programming standard has emerged.
Although IBM and Massachusetts-based ...
[Vol 4, #364 Jun 21, 2002] "A Chip That Mimics Neurons, Firing Up the Memory" Dr. Berger, director of UCLA's Center for Neural Engineering, envisions a computer chip that can be implanted in people's brains and mirror the functions of neurons. Such a device could be particularly beneficial for persons whose ...
[Vol 4, #379 Jul 29, 2002] "Collaborative Augmented Reality"
AR systems, in which virtual objects are superimposed
over real-world environments via special interfaces, are being
developed to enhance both remote and face-to-face collaboration.
The advantages AR has over traditional desktop ...
[Vol 4, #380 Jul 31, 2002] "Anemone of the Smart People" Robots, sensory enhancement, and augmented reality illustrated the theme of human-machine interaction at the Emerging Technologies Exhibition--a featured highlight of the 2002 ACM SIGGRAPH conference in San Antonio. MIT Media ...
[Vol 4, #388 Aug 19, 2002] "The Age of Assisted Cognition" Speakers at an Oregon conference hosted by Intel Research say that the elderly, particularly those stricken with Alzheimer's disease, will be the earliest beneficiaries of pervasive computing. Dr. Tangalos of the Alzheimer's Disease Research . . .
[Vol 4, #394 Sep 4, 2002] "Reality Redefined" Augmented reality, in which real-world environments are enhanced with computer-generated images, has become more refined over the last 3yrs. The overlay of computer graphics onto the user's point of view is accomplished by a head-mounted ...
[Vol 4, #398 Sep 13, 2002] "Mind Power" The science of bionics has progressed to the point where the effects of certain disabilities can be mitigated to a small degree by neural interfaces. In Australia, 2,000 people boast cochlear implants that transmit audio signals directly to the ...
"New Wearable Computer Helps Blind Navigate" A wearable computer project at the U Florida aims to give blind people directions using a GPS device, wireless connection, and spatial database. Users can walk about the university campus and receive voice prompts ...
[Vol 4, #404 Sep 27, 2002] "Inventor Foresees Implanted Sensors Aiding Brain Functions" In a keynote address at the Fall Sensors Expo in Boston, inventor Ray Kurzweil declared that the increasing frequency of paradigm shifts caused by accelerated tech advancements could one day lead to interactive techs that ...
[Vol 4, #433 Dec 11, 2002] "The Bionic Connection" Efforts to develop cyborg tech such as smart chip implants and neural-machine interfaces have yielded breakthroughs that might one day help disabled people conquer paralysis and move prosthetic limbs, allow consumers to control machines by ...
[Vol 5, #441 Jan 3, 2003] "Realer Than Real" Head-mounted display technologies are an example of "mixed reality" systems that promise to seamlessly integrate computer-generated data and imagery with the real world, and Japan is leading the charge in this area: Japanese hospitals have ...
[Vol 5, #475 Mar 28, 2003] "Synapse Chip Taps Into Brain Chemistry" Stanford U researchers Fishman and Peterman have developed an artificial synapse that can deliver chemical signals, more commonly known as neurotransmitters, to neurons, thus stimulating electrical impulses. The scientists told ...
[Vol 5, #540 Sep 1, 2003] "Genoa II: Man and Machine Thinking as One" DARPAís $54 million Genoa II project focuses on potential info tech that could enable humans and computers to think in unison in real time so they can predict and forestall terrorist ...
[Vol 5, #541 Sep 5, 2003] "Mind-Expanding Machines" U West Florida's Institute for Human and Machine Cognition is a center for development of cognitive prostheses designed to augment or expand human perceptions and intellectual capabilities; such a concept is a core component of ...
[Vol 6# 591 Jan 7, 2004] "Head-Up Displays Get Second Chance" Carmakers and suppliers expect heads-up display tech to get a new lease on life with the advent of multicolor LEDs, smaller liquid-crystal displays, and windshield optics innovations. Steven Stringfellow of General Motors' Electrical Center reports that ...
[May 28, 2004] 'Heads-Up' Display Lives Up to Its Name Students at U Washington led by Eric Seibel of UW's Human Interface Technology Laboratory have spent 4yrs developing the Wearable Low Vision Aid, a head-mounted device that helps people with poor vision circumvent stationary obstacles by beaming icons into ...
[Apr 8, 2005] Designing a 'Bionic Eye' Stanford U physicists and ophthalmologists disclosed the design of an artificial vision system that can stimulate a retina with sharp enough resolution to enable a visually impaired person to orient himself toward objects, identify faces, watch television, read large fonts, and live
[Apr 20, 2005] New Sensors Detect Speech Without Sound DARPAís Advanced Speech Encoding project is developing non-acoustic sensor techs that could have uses outside of the military communication apps they are designed for. The initial phase of the project yielded an "active noise ...