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


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.


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.


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) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Henn is NPR's technology correspondent based in Menlo Park, California, who is currently on assignment with Planet Money. An award winning journalist, he now covers the intersection of technology and modern life - exploring how digital innovations are changing the way we interact with people we love, the institutions we depend on and the world around us. In 2012 he came frighteningly close to crashing one of the first Tesla sedans ever made. He has taken a ride in a self-driving car, and flown a drone around Stanford's campus with a legal expert on privacy and robotics.