That Was Easy: Valve’s Hardware Is Wearable Computing

By Nathan Grayson on April 14th, 2012 at 8:30 am.

Except, you know, imagine those glasses are from the future.
Valve doesn’t like to say things. Where’s Half-Life 2: Episode Three? Silence. Why has Left 4 Dead 2′s Cold Stream DLC taken nearly a year? Silence. What does Gordon Freeman’s voice sound like? Silence. Yesterday, though, a Valve job listing seeking out new hardware tech wizards for its shadowy developer coven got the whole Internet talking. And, somewhat shockingly, Valve’s decided to talk back.

Admittedly, this isn’t entirely unprecedented. Last time Gabe Newell emerged from his patented Gabe Cave, glorious wisdom beard gleaming from the mystical energies of a million gaming revelations (or maybe just the sun), he briefly mentioned Valve’s forays into wearable computing. Now, though, Valve developer and former Quake coauthor Michael Abrash has blown the lid off the subject with an extremely interesting blog post. Need proof? Well, I’ve brought you these snippets. Because I love you.

“By ‘wearable computing’ I mean mobile computing where both computer-generated graphics and the real world are seamlessly overlaid in your view; there is no separate display that you hold in your hands (think Terminator vision). The underlying trend as we’ve gone from desktops through laptops and notebooks to tablets is one of having computing available in more places, more of the time. The logical endpoint is computing everywhere, all the time – that is, wearable computing – and I have no doubt that 20 years from now that will be standard.”

“What does a wearable UI look like, and how does it interact with wearable input? How does the computer know where you are and what you’re looking at? When the human visual system sees two superimposed views, one real and one virtual, what will it accept and what will it reject? To what extent is augmented reality useful – and if it’s useful, to what extent is it affordably implementable in the near future? What hardware advances are needed to enable the software? And much, much more – there are deep, worthy challenges everywhere you look.”

He also noted that he thinks the shift to wearable computing could begin as soon as 3-5 years from now. Google concurs. Perhaps equally fascinating for entirely different reasons, though, is Abrash’s breakdown of Valve’s workplace organizational structure. The short version? There is none.

“How could a 300-person company not have any formal management? It takes new hires about six months before they fully accept that no one is going to tell them what to do, that no manager is going to give them a review, that there is no such thing as a promotion or a job title or even a fixed role (although there are generous raises and bonuses based on value to the company, as assessed by peers). That it is their responsibility, and theirs alone, to allocate the most valuable resource in the company – their time – by figuring out what it is that they can do that is most valuable for the company, and then to go do it. That if they decide that they should be doing something different, there’s no manager to convince to let them go; they just move their desk to the new group (the desks are on wheels, with computers attached) and start in on the new thing.”

Granted, projects tend to elect leads and less freeform structures, but there’s apparently no official titles or politics to it. Same goes for Steam, which – given the scope of the operation – is frankly astounding. I highly recommend you read through the whole thing if you get the chance. It’s a brilliant look inside a company whose doors are generally so firmly shut that I just sort of assumed people left the building via some form of secret underground chute system. Also, this is the closest thing to an on-paper outline of Valve Time we’re ever gonna get.

The whole thing carries a pervasive “you should totally come work for us” vibe too, which is an interesting shift for a company that’s traditionally satiated its highly selective tastes with only the absolute cream of the crop. And while I don’t doubt that it’s still setting out a series of Genius Traps to catch only the best and the brightest, Abrash almost seems to be opening the floodgates. Maybe it’s revving up to tackle wearable computing in a big way, or maybe it’s a load of different factors. Maybe I’m reading into this too much. But it really is quite the thing. Also, I can’t wait to play a version of Half-Life where my eyes are guns.

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183 Comments »

  1. Tom Walker says:

    That sounds like an amazing company to work for.

    It also sounds like a company who (given that Steam will keep them rich anyway) could easily go five years without ever getting around to releasing anything.

    • Phantoon says:

      Honestly, the company sounds like it has a communist structure.

      And that’s pretty okay.

      • Telekinesis says:

        Communist? It seems more like a Libertarian thing as it’s the opposite of Communism where everything is controlled, whereas it seems to be organized around the power of the individuals choices and trust in their intentions, not the “State” (management) like Communism. It’s really about the individual through their freedom of choice for the team, essentially exactly how the US was *originally* set up; limited govt, especially federal and a focus on individual State and local govt. It really was a beautiful thing born out of tyrannical govt designed to limit its power and protect the power of the individual and their right to self determination emulating their setup. Communism is essentially the exact opposite of that.

        Edit: Last night after thinking about my comment I was going to edit it to say it more accurately reflects socialism, which I see I should have done

        • othello says:

          So there is actually no government in true communism. What you’re thinking of is a totalitarian government with a controlled economy (i.e. the Soviet Union or China, neither which were technically communist).

        • Merus says:

          You seem like you’re confusing communism with Bolshevism. Communism traditionally advocates for the state to work towards its own dismantling, somewhat like Batman. Also like Batman, there are some problems with the concept in practice.

          • Wang Tang says:

            This is the first time, even on the internet, that I’ve seen communism explained with batman.
            I salute you, Sir: Chapeau! :D

          • Tom OBedlam says:

            Best analogy ever

          • InternetBatman says:

            That’s pretty much it. Although communism is supposed to have a fairly long intermediary period where the workers have councils and the councils elect members to bigger councils that decide things.

          • Underwhelmed says:

            Merus, This is the best thing I have ever read. Seriously. You have made my day.

          • FakeAssName says:

            Communism = where everyone respects each other and does the right thing because it is right and supportive to the community = a fucking fairytale written up by a bored rich kid and his accountant.

            socialism = a dictatorship run by committee & committees = bureaucracies & bureaucracies = corporation.

            so Socialism = corporate rule of a nation.

          • ezekiel2517 says:

            Corporate rule of nation? You are thinking of Capitalism, good sir.

          • nitftas says:

            http://short-urls.net/70a well everyone seems to believe they want it :P Valve is making them, Razer made an april fools joke about them… Google is making them… Who else is jumping on the augmented reality glasses?

        • Alexander Norris says:

          Communism is essentially the exact opposite of that.

          No, it isn’t, and you apparently don’t know what communism is (it’s neither Leninism nor Stalinism, for one).

          This is definitely anarchism rather than communism, though.

          • Belisarius says:

            Communism and anarchism is the same thing, socialism is probably what your thinking about, known as the bridge between capitalism and communism aka anarchism.

          • Donjo says:

            Communism and anarchism are similar in a lot of ways except Anarchists would not usually countenance a vanguard approach.. I think. Anyway, I love that a hugely successful modern corporation seems to be organised along somewhat anarchist lines… it’s pretty unbelievable but it seems true. One of the reasons why I trust them and admire Gabe Newell so much.

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          Okami says:

          “Taking Stalinism as an example when talking about communism is the same as taking the Spanish Inquisition as an example when talking about Chistianity” – Erich Fromm

          Since ideally a communist society would be “a free society of free individuals” where people work because they want to work and not because they’re being coerced to do so by threats to their very existence, the comparison of Valve and an (ideal) communist society is not so much out of place.

          Come to think of it, this actually sounds a lot like Marx ideas about communism. In a capitalist society everyone is defined and constrained by his trade (a direct effect of the division of labour) and thus is a carpenter, a hunter, a fisherman or a critic, in a communist society one could hunt in the mornign, fish at noon and critisize in the evening, without ever being a hunter, a fisherman or a critic.

          That’s not to say that Valve are communists, but the parallels are intersting. Also, if we choose to stay with Marxist theory for a moment and look at game development from this perspective, I think it would be safe to say, that Valve employees are as far away from what Marx calls “estranged labor” (I don’t know if this is the right english term for “entfremdete arbeit”) as possible within the larger confines of a capitalist society. Which would go a long way to explain the quality of their products and the success enjoyed by the company.

          Brief explanation of the term “entfremdete arbeit”: Marx said that in the capitalist production process workers are estranged or alienated from their work, due to a variety of reasons. One is the breaking down of production of an object into ever smaller steps, that require less and less skill on the part of the individual worker in the name of efficiency, thus removing the sense of contribution one feels to the creation of the whole. Another factor would be, that workers no longer see themselves creating an object that they have any kind of personal investment in, but just a product that has to be sold on the market and their prime motivation for this is pure exsitential threat.

          So, since Valve employees can chose their project and even their role in the project, animating in the morning, programming at noon and designing in the evening, without ever beeing an animator, a programmer or a designer and do so without the threat of milestones, they are bound to feel a much larger personal attachment to the games they create.

          • Donjo says:

            Exactly! It’s bizarre to analyse a modern video game corporation in Marxist terms and find so many parallels but they’re definitely there. One of the many reasons I find Valve and the games they make thoroughly compelling :)

          • iisjreg says:

            Thank you SO much for this reply.
            Comments like this highlight RPS as the Wellies I use to stand in a river of shit.

            Well done.

          • Lekker Pain says:

            Job well done sir. More people should read it to understand better.

            Thank you for this contribution.

          • Theon says:

            Woah, it’s like I’m really not on the internet.

            Thank you for an interesting analysis and a thouroughly thought out contribution to a debate on the internet; people like you make this a better place to waste time :)

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            Okami says:

            @Donjo: I really don’t see anything bizarre about using Marx to take a look at modern business practices, since his analysis of the nature of labor and the workings of capitalism still hold true today. One might not agree with his conclusions regarding what should be done about all that (eating with hammer and sickle instead of fork and knife was one of his worse ideas), but that’s another matter.

          • Paul R says:

            Erich Fromm is wrong, it is proper to take the Spanish Inquisition as the fully consistent implementation of Christianity. Note the similarity between the Spanish Inquisition and the secret police of the modern totalitarian state in their enthusiastic prosecution of thought-crimes. The common root of their similarity is the common belief that it is possible and proper to force people to do the right thing, to compel people to be good. Whether the goal is preparing for the second coming of Christ or the post-capitalist communist utopia, the ideal of a “greater good” permits and encourages the use of torture, “re-education”, death camps and genocide to eliminate individuals not conforming to the ideal of the good.

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          Okami says:

          @Paul R: Your point about the spanish inquisition beeing a fully consistent implementation of christianity is highly debatable and a lot of christians would probably feel insulted by it, but since I’m not a christian I’ll let it stand. You are right about one thing of course, any attempt to forcefully bring about something for the greater good is doomed to fail.You can not create a free society through coercion and oppression, that’s why so many revolutions fail to actually improve upon the regimes they toppeled.

          Still, nothing you said actually invalidated my arguments about the similarities between Marx’ ideas about a free society of free individuals (aka communism) and the corporate structure of Valve.

          • The Colonel says:

            “You can not create a free society through coercion and oppression, that’s why so many revolutions fail to actually improve upon the regimes they toppeled.”

            Depends on the scale of your viewpoint, your definition of “free” and your definition of “improve upon”. If you see freedom as freedom from capitalist alienation and market determination then you can only do that by somehow dismantling the capitalist material base. Since it’s not been done successfully anywhere it seems premature to make absolute judgements on its possibility and suitable methods for achieving it. Oppression and coercion do not have to be universal of course – only used against those elements who resist change (one could say that the same is currently true for dissidents in the “free world”.)

            If by “free” you mean in the neo-liberal sense of the world then I don’t think you’ll have to look far to find the coercion and oppression that creates and sustains the system…

        • Consumatopia says:

          The original American constitution did not (and so-called “Libertarianism” does not) protect individual freedom, they protect the status quo. Freedom of choice has *nothing* to do with how my country was originally set up–see: slavery. There was no objection to Power or Hierarchy–those are the basis of markets and private property. There is only an objection to *changes* in power–to democratic reform attempting to balance power. So we did not arrest those who kept slaves, but those who tried to liberate them–those who objected to the private property system of their day.

          We Americans shouldn’t be proud of the original articles of their constitution–they describe a system that is both broken and evil. We should be proud of the amendments–and our long, sometimes bloody, struggle to adopt those amendments. People going on about how great the original system was are not only completely wrong, they denigrate what we managed to achieve over the past couple centuries.

          • Telekinesis says:

            The system is wonderful, slavery has nothing to do with it and is in fact a carry over of the old system from where the colonists came from, and just plain evil acts which people do in spades. The system was amended to excuse their greed and the economic system and ideals they brought over from the old world, it is not a part of the original setup. Using your logic is to say that becuase the govt does not act lawfully in governing in the way it is supposed to currently, the current methods you say are superior are in fact invalid and wrong. People in the future may use your same argument to erroneously damn the current implementation. Gets tiring when people do this, seems so common ….slavery! Yep throw the whole baby out with the bath water! It’s all bad yep …slavery! That’s like saying the current laws against murder or stealing are wrong becuase we still have people who steal. You’re getting way to hung up on slavery, yeah good amendment but that has nothing to do with anything else in there, and it’s absence for a time has no relevance to the other areas.

            Your whole concept about the status quo seems odd as well, it was designed to limit the govt and empower the people becuase it has been shown throughout history nothing is more dangerous to people’s rights, property freedom, you name it then rogue out of control government (Fact: the largest murderers, thieves, human rights abusers, you name any crime in history is by far governments X1000)
            It was set up to create a new status quo being the protection of individual rights, liberty and control and participation in the govt by people. You state status quo as if it is a negative when in fact everything is a status quo, even the establishing of the complete opposite of this. Anything that exists is the status quo, it is not a inherently negative term. Every govt is set out to establish a status quo so becuase of that is all government bad in your opinion becuase “status quo” is bad?

          • Consumatopia says:

            Slavery is, by far, the worst atrocity committed in the United States, if not the New World generally. And the masters who beat and killed them were private individuals, not governments. Slavery is not just a minor detail that the founders got wrong. It’s the perfect example of the the infinite evil that can be made compatible with “private” property. The state can permit any evil that it wants to by assigning property rights accordingly. So let whites “own” blacks. Let men “own” a right to sex from their spouses. Let colonists “own” native land. Let factories “own” the right to poison our air and water. Let the poor own the right to starve.

            Or, heck, let the premier of the Soviet Union “own” the entire country and you’ve proven that Capitalism=Soviet Communism. Property is the right to exclusive access to a resource, as deemed by the state or other authority. And once you have the right to determine exclusive access to things, you have all the power you need. Typically, what “limited” government gives you–a world in which the biggest, strongest, and wealthiest get what they want, and the smaller, weakers, and poorer aren’t allowed to band together to stop them.

            That is why the modern American “libertarian” defends private property. Private property has nothing to do with freedom, it’s about allocating control. What matters to the libertarian, or to the founding fathers, is not freedom or liberty, but that the allocation of control not change.

            The system was amended to excuse their greed and the economic system and ideals they brought over from the old world, it is not a part of the original setup.

            Bullshit, slavery was embedded into both the original articles (e.g. 2/3 compromise) and into the governments of the states that ratified it. The evil was amended out of the original, demonic system. If you want to praise our system of government, praise Lincoln, not Madison.

            There are, in fact, many ongoing evils about our current system. Though it is an improvement over our dark, dark, history, I strive to improve it further. Human fallibility being what it is, I expect our descendants will still be ever striving. At the time of our founding the most important feature of our status quo, the one historians will remember most, was slavery. What is most important is that we the people, as we gain more experience watching history unfold, be able to reform that status quo–or undo previous “reforms” if it turns out that they were mistaken. That was the redeeming grace of our system–that we could change it. To rollback all of those changes to the beginning is to undo everything good about our country.

      • theleif says:

        I can picture the FOX headline: “American game company infiltrated by communist agents!” and talking points such as “Does playing Half Life make your child a godless socialist killing machine?” and “Portal 2 – Anti corporate propaganda?”

      • Jupiah says:

        As an American, I cannot believe I just read a conversation about communism that didn’t collapse into irrational namecalling. Over here calling someone a socialist is the ultimate insult, and even implying that communism maybe might not be greatest evil to have ever existed is borderline treason.

        It’s pretty much the only reason why we’re having such a massive controversy over health care reform right now. Doesn’t matter that the reform makes our health care system more efficient and cover more people for less money – it’s “socialist”, and therefore bad and must be opposed.

        • sinister agent says:

          Would it help if I called you a terrorist?

        • wodin says:

          It’s a running joke in the UK that Amercians blame “Commies” for everything from global repression to their car breaking down.

          Communist paranoia stemming from the McCarthy era. Funny yet worrying at the same time.

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            emertonom says:

            Sadly, here in the U.S., that joke is running for office. And the campaign is too well-funded to completely dismiss.

        • Geen says:

          Not over here on the west coast, we pretty much think of ourselves as socialists.

      • Reefpirate says:

        You can’t really compare Valve to a form of government… It exists within a pseudo-capitalist state, so if anything it’s still a corporation working for profit in a relatively free market. You can’t call it socialist or communist or anarchist, etc. because all of it’s employees are free citizens in a free country. They don’t have their own military or police force, and there’s no immigration policy, and there’s a lack of a LOT of other things that would identify it as a state.

        Valve is capitalist, I’m sorry.

        • Consumatopia says:

          Capitalism is often more than a theory of the state, but also a theory of how people should optimally behave privately. It values price mechanisms and markets, and tends to oppose or at least be suspicious of legislatures, elections, and communal consent. Thus capitalists tend to argue not only against state intervention, but against employee-owned businesses or even letting shareholders control everyday decisions too directly. Ideally, all decisions are either by mutual consent of the marketplace, or unilaterally. Elections, compromise, etc are afflicated by public choice problems, the voter’s paradox, Arrow’s impossibility theorem, etc. And simple anarchy is afflicted by free-rider problems, “the tragedy of the commons”, etc.

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          Okami says:

          I don’t think anyone ever tried to imply, that Valve are communists or are organized like a communist state (an oxymoron if ever there was one, by the way). Or that the way their company is organised comes from the communist believes of the owners or anyone else working there. It was just pointed out, that the way people work there and their approach to job descriptions has some resemblances to the original ideas of a communist society, as proposed by Karl Marx. They are, of course, a profit oriented business working within the capitalist system.

        • halcyonforever says:

          I think this conversation is quite epic in both illustrating the depth of thought people can put into this discussion, and the misinformation that can persist about government structures. People hold Democracy and Communism as opposite ends of the political spectrum, in reality the pure systems differ only in one regard, personal property.
          If you take a community of 100 people and say they are a democracy, they would each have 1 vote on governing issues and would each have their own resources and the jurisdiction of how to implement those resources. Same 100 people in a pure communist society, still have 1 vote on governing issues, however all resources are pooled and used for the benefit of the whole without individual jurisdiction.
          Pure democracy and pure communism begin to break down beyond that point because general consensus becomes burdensome to achieve. Then you start to layer other forms of government such as representation or federation, now you have a select group who has power and you start to see corruption build.

          It makes me cringe everytime I hear a civics teacher say we live in a democracy (USA). The closest description is a Federated Republic with democratic election of senators.

    • noogai03 says:

      Valve DOES sound like an epic company to work for (but not as good as Mojang, they have compulsory gaming fridays).
      Valve DOES take a VERY long time to release stuff, *ahem* HL2:Ep3 *ahem*, but it’s epic when it comes out.

      • Hoaxfish says:

        Can’t say I’d want to work for Mojang, while “compulsory game Friday” might sound interesting, I’m not exactly convinced the rest of the week is “well spent” in a structured way.

      • Tuesdays With Gorey says:

        Whew, for a second there I was worried we wouldn’t have any off topic irrational Mojang hate in this comment thread, that would have been an anomaly.

        Hoaxfish saves the day.

        • Berzee says:

          “Not exactly convinced is structured” —> [black box] —> “a burning hatred that defies reason”

          Need to get me one of those black boxes.

  2. Juan Carlo says:

    I remember they had this for the sega genesis back in the 1990s. It was essentially a TV in a helmet that you wore on your head. It didn’t go over well.

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      … and 3D holograms, and people living on the moon, and…

      I think this just sounds like another pipedream project. For one thing anyone wanting to go out in public with whatever this thing looks like is going to have to suffer looking like an absolute knobhead. Secondly the technological advances are going to have to be massive (but admittedly not impossible) to get anything useful down to the size of someone’s glasses and have a decent method of input that forgoes a keyboard but doesn’t have you waving your arms about in the air like a demented windmill. I think a lot of people (especially non geeks) will reject how personally invasive the technology is if it requires contact lenses and glasses to be on. Obviously it will be extraordinarily expensive, especially to begin with, and that alone can stop technology from becoming truly widespread (i.e. PS3, 3D TVs, etc…).

      • YourMessageHere says:

        I don’t know if you’ve seen other people in the world around you recently, but there’s a lot of this ‘looking like an absolute knobhead’ going around. AR glasses pale into insignificance in the absolute knobhead stakes when compared to glasses frames with no glass in, or wearing your trousers around your upper thighs, or Beats headphones, or flat hats, or anything leopardprint, or indeed walking around absorbed entirely in your phone. That aside, if AR can be made useful and affordable, I’ll gladly look a bit silly. If people wear specs and sunglasses and hats, they will wear AR glasses.

        This is not as revolutionary an idea as it sounds, it’s simply a HUD for everyday life. Such things exist already on phones; I used to houseshare with a bloke who was writing a programme that overlaid current deals on shops if you pointed your phone at them. And look at how ubiquitous smartphones are, despite the insane amounts they cost.

        • Ninja Foodstuff says:

          Very well put sir

          • Donjo says:

            The technology is already there- could be some kind of tablet you keep in your pocket or bag or whatever that connects wirelessly to the interface.

        • InternetBatman says:

          I agree. There’s nothing graceful about earbuds or ear pieces, but tons of people use them. I do think wearable technology gains greater acceptance as it becomes more minimalist, but there is a group of people that would wear them just because it’s noticeable.

      • Jhoosier says:

        Like the ‘gargoyles’ in “Snow Crash”. They were considered weird and outcasts.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      by coincidence, Eurogamer did a thing of the fate of VR recently

  3. Gormongous says:

    Staring eyes, oh God.

  4. jon_hill987 says:

    Does anyone rally want all this junk? Wearable computers and tablets? Or is it that people just believe the adverts that tell them they want them? You can’t win the argument either, if you say that you do want it it is probably just the advert talking.

    • Stochastic says:

      Wearable computers have been a staple of sci-fi for a long time now. I don’t think it’s just some newfangled desideratum that’s been forcibly pushed into our heads by Madison Avenue.

      That having been said, I think it’s interesting the approach Valve is taking with this. It seems like they don’t really have a well-defined end goal. Rather, it looks like they’re just dipping their toes in the ultra-high-tech waters and seeing what happens. Abrash mentioned that wearable computers will probably be ubiquitous in 20 years time. Is this the sort of time window Valve is looking at? Or do they expect to have a functioning product sooner than that?

      • toomany says:

        Augmented reality and the hardware that facilitates it has applications to pretty much every industry I can think of.

        • Aemony says:

          Pretty much what toomany said. Heck, augmented reality has applications everywhere, whether it be in industries or merely out shopping or partying with friends. It allows you to get data everywhere anytime on everything in a natural way without pulling up and fiddling with a device.

          • Phantoon says:

            Gaben is a dragon and the world will be Shadowrun in 20 years.

            You heard it here first!

          • Skabooga says:

            partying with friends.

            I would never again have to awkwardly stumble in conversation after forgetting someone’s name! I would just look at them and their name would hover a few inches to the right of them. Just like in the video games!

        • bill says:

          It’s already used in a lot of industries. I know certain airline mechanics already have HUD glasses so they can bring up the technical manuals of the parts they are working on.

          That said, about the only industry I don’t see a big application for is gaming. (other than augmented reality social gaming treasure hunts or whatever…)

          • Chris D says:

            “That said, about the only industry I don’t see a big application for is gaming.”

            Two words: Dream Park

          • InternetBatman says:

            I could see a ton of alternate reality games becoming popular, and if there was a cheap image editor that let you easily share images to others with those glasses I think that would be popular.

          • toomany says:

            Having a data overlay and interacting with smart objects is an incredible concept. When think about that and something like the virtual reality tech that was stillborn in the 90′s you can imagine some pretty huge innovations, especially for gaming.

          • Jhoosier says:

            “That said, about the only industry I don’t see a big application for is gaming.”

            I envision a huge resurgence in tabletop gaming. The DM can create isometric maps, players move their barcoded avatars around, which then fight the enemies, and so on.

            Not to mention the goofy AR games like real-life Space Invaders.

        • D3xter says:

          I’d love implementations in tourism and the likes… you know those stupid audio guides they hand out when you visit places like Pompeji, Alhambra or thereabouts?

          Perfect examples of trying to virtually rebuild something and make it look “like back then” with lots of Info and stuff hidden in a pair of glasses.

    • Askeladd says:

      I have no smartphone and no Xpad and I can see the value of those things.
      The next step is everything everywhere, but I see one problem with that:
      We are getting closer to the point where the human looses a bit of humanity with “everything everywhere”.
      This won’t happen until it’s used by everyone, which leads to “everyone, everywhere, everything”.
      Sounds like a sex ad? Well, it’s not that GOOD.

    • coffeetable says:

      Considering how I now get my kindle (research papers) out every time I’m in the queue at Tesco’s, yes, yes I do.

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      The Sombrero Kid says:

      You will accept cybernetics or you will be one of the mental people shouting in the street, play deus ex for reference. I personally won’t be happy until I have a piezoelectric subdermal computer with a retinal display implant.

      • Stochastic says:

        Why stop there? Might as well go all out and have complete neural integration.

        • LionsPhil says:

          Not this side of the software industry ceasing to be in general a bunch of half-arsing cowboys, thanks.

          • Jhoosier says:

            Software viruses, bugs, etc. Yeah, screw that. I’d rather keep my brain away from people who can screw it up.

        • Unaco says:

          Complete? Unlikely. Partial? Can already be done. DARPA is currently throwing enough money to buy several (small) European countries at anyone who has so much as published the words ‘brain’ ‘machine’ and ‘interface’, not even necessarily in the same article. Europe as well, last I checked, were getting into it as well, though they tend not to be as free with their money.

      • The Colonel says:

        Now everyone will see why I need a skull-gun.

    • Text_Fish says:

      I want it, but not from Valve. I want something else from Valve. HL3. And maybe a job.

      Also, when I say “I want it”, what I actually mean is I want to know it exists and maybe try it someday because terminator vision would be awesome, but actually it would probably get pretty annoying and invasive eventually. My “smart”phone pisses me off no-end already, so imagine having that permanent “connectivity” right up in your grill? Eugh.

    • Unaco says:

      Yes. Some of us want ubiquitous computing.

    • SiHy_ says:

      Is your name really Jon or do you just believe what people have told you all your life?

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      Nope. I don’t want this junk either. And I wished nobody else did.

      But this is the bloody consumerism we have. There’s no fighting back people who just want something despite having had absolutely zero information of what that will really be. Look at these comments.

      • ResonanceCascade says:

        Yes, everyone who wants something you don’t is just a mindlessconsumerdronelemmingsheeple. Thanks for sharing that deep bit of wisdom.

      • YourMessageHere says:

        “There’s no fighting back people who just want something despite having had absolutely zero information of what that will really be.”

        That’s generally known as ‘imagination’, and it may surprise you, but in fact most people tend to actually see it as a good thing. Probably everyone has a different idea what Augmented Reality will be; hopefully enough of them will get in on this that AR glasses will be and do a wide variety of things.

    • Consumatopia says:

      Well, tablets are obviously useful to lots of people. You can browse the Internet without carrying a laptop. I didn’t need an advert to tell me that, I just remember all the times in the late 90s/early 00s I’d be annoyed I couldn’t look something up without a computer.

      Wearable computers–eh, that’s trickier. I’m not sure what can and can’t be done with them. Probably lots of stuff we haven’t thought of yet. Maybe if I could install Linux and community-written (e.g. not Android) software on it I might want one, but there’s no way I want to go through life seeing Microsoft, Apple, or Google Ad-sponsored Augmented Reality on my retinas.

    • Christian O. says:

      Didn’t you just invalidate your own argument by pointing out that it can’t be falsified or proven?

    • Nesetalis says:

      well everyone seems to believe they want it :P Valve is making them, Razer made an april fools joke about them… Google is making them…
      Who else is jumping on the augmented reality glasses?

      • Sumanai says:

        I’m not jumping on them yet. Maybe after I get a pair and they refuse to, for the fiftieth bloody time, sync up with other devices and instead give up some stupid error message that doesn’t help since googling it gets me pages after pages of people saying that I “read the manual/use the help pages that contain no helpful information for the problem”, “should read this link that contains nothing related to the issue at hand”, “should have bought Nvidia”, “did something wrong” or something else that is as helpful as scowling at a burning building.

  5. Avish says:

    Cynical comment: WOW! This way better than Half life (episode) 3. It really is. Way to go Valve!

    Not so cynical comment: This is one the things that sounds cool on paper, but probably not going to be very useful for the common man. I know that helicopter pilots are using something like that for a couple of decades and it takes some training of the eye-brain to get use to it. It can gives someone a bit of a headache.

    It also reminds me of the third episode of Black mirror.

    • Stochastic says:

      Yeah, that’s a good point. Abrash mentions something similar in the blog post when he writes, “When the human visual system sees two superimposed views, one real and one virtual, what will it accept and what will it reject?” It almost seems as if Valve is looking at this as a long-term project. Instead of aiming at developing a functional product they can market in the next few years, they’re just trying to do some basic research on augmented reality systems and solve fundamental problems such as this.

      I’m a little perplexed why Valve, a software company, would get involved in wearable hardware. I know they’re big and they have deep pockets, but a project this ambitious is going to take some major capital and expertise. How can a company of software developers expect to compete against the major tech giants? Or is that not Valve’s goal at all? Maybe they don’t even want to develop a product so much as learn about how to implement AR in a feasible way to encourage hardware manufacturers to explore the space. As usual when it comes to Valve, it’s all a big mystery. All I know is that this is a very fun subject in which to engage in idle speculation.

  6. Red_Avatar says:

    Well without any structure, it explains why Episode 3 isn’t being made. No-one feels like doing it so screw the loyal fans.

    • Premium User Badge

      The Sombrero Kid says:

      You’d prefer everyone was forced to work on it against their will? That’s how you end up with assassins creed.

    • Grygus says:

      The question is: is it better to not get Episode 3 at all because nobody feels like working on it, or to get a bad Episode 3 because it was made by people who didn’t feel like working on it?

    • Stochastic says:

      Maybe this is a Duke Nukem-esque dilemma. Since it’s been so long since HL2:E2, expectations for EP3/HL3 have grown rampantly to the point where they can’t possibly be met. Perhaps no one at Valve wants to be responsible for creating a disappointing game, and so work on the project is either delayed or scrapped since it doesn’t satisfy the impossibly high standards for the new Half-Life. This, in turn, elevates the standards for the game even more, exacerbating the problem with a vicious feedback loop. Of course, it’s far more likely that Valve has something special cooked up that they’ll be revealing at a later date, but it’s fun to invent elaborate scenarios like this.

      • Premium User Badge

        RaveTurned says:

        This. Valve has created some huge shoes for themselves to fill, and the salivating of the “Where’s HL3?!” crowd only makes it worse. They’re not going to release anything until they are 110% happy with it, and because of the revenue from Steam they don’t have to.

        • InternetBatman says:

          Steam is a lot of revenue, but it is also a lot of work and responsibility. Every Steam improvement reaches what 30 million customers? There’s still a ton of areas they can improve steam too (like tags instead of categories in the library). Half-Life 3 would reach way less people, so it is possible to argue that steam is and should be more important to them.

          I imagine that they’ll make a new Source Engine for the next gen of consoles, and the first game will be HL3.

    • seanblah12 says:

      you should probably send a letter to gabe, he probably didn’t realise you felt so strongly about it

    • Premium User Badge

      Aninhumer says:

      I think it might be more, in the absence of a management structure, no one feels like they’re good enough to make HL3. It’s such an important project, no one wants to risk screwing it up.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Perhaps they’ve all realised that Half-Life’s plot isn’t actually compelling, and the only “fans” who care are the unappeasable forum-dwellers of the Internet, so they may as well make new, fun games instead.

      • Kevin says:

        I suppose whoever handled the writing at Valve for the episodes wrote the series into a corner, to the point that rampant ret-conning of MGS4 proportions would be needed to tie all loose plot ends. It really did make me angry in Episode 2 that they decided to deepen the biggest mysteries of the series which made the cliffhanger ending really sting. Who knows? Maybe the Mass Effect 3 ending backlash scared Valve out of building upon their latest build of HL3.

        Hell, if Valve keeps this up, Episode 2 would retroactively win the award for worst ending to a video game storyline ever.

      • Tuesdays With Gorey says:

        I thought it was compelling.

        And fun.

        I’d like to play some more if I could.

        That makes me a whining fanboy right?

  7. boundless08 says:

    I can’t wait to see people jumping around the street avoiding head crabs!

  8. callmecheez says:

    obligatory – Just give us a non-wearable Episode 3.

  9. Paul says:

    That blogpost is fascinating, I cannot wait for more. Valve revolutionizes.

  10. sky_in_flames says:

    Call me old fashioned, but I can do without “wearable computing”. /picardfacepalm

    • Grygus says:

      Of course you can do without it… nobody is claiming otherwise. You can also do without your computer, cell phone, house, job, and car. The question isn’t whether it’s necessary, but optimal. It clearly can be optimal. There is almost no selling needed; when the equipment is sufficiently well engineered, we will clamor for it.

      • LionsPhil says:

        You can also do without your computer, cell phone, house, job, and car.

        Bollocks. You decidedly can’t “do without” a house and job and still have a comparable quality of life. Then there are increasing pressures to inconvenience those without cellphones, such as the reduction of payphones, motorway emergency telephones, and migrations to smartphone-based two-factor-auth and payment systems. And try asking an American, where their public transport is even worse than ours, if they can commute to their job without a car.

        Once a technology becomes ubiquitous (although I have to wonder if I’m biting a particularly egregious troll for even including “house” in the same set—homelessness apparently being something you can live with quite happily), there is naturally some ostricisation of those who want no part of it due to simple economic, network, and social conformity effects.

        • Faxmachinen says:

          So, by your definition of “do without” as “do without something that does not increase your quality of life”, all wearable computers would have to do is to increase quality of life somehow. No way it could possibly do that, right?

    • Hoaxfish says:

      shouldn’t that be /locutus-of-the-borg-facepalm

  11. caddyB says:

    h+

  12. Premium User Badge

    Joshua says:

    Obligatory “My vision is augmented”.

    • Jhoosier says:

      Having had Lasik, I guess my vision has been augmented. No corneal implants, though. Anyone with those clearly wins.

  13. Lande says:

    First Google, now Valve. Looks like augmented reality is going to make inroads in the near future.

    Both frightening and exciting.

    • Grygus says:

      Why is it scary?

      • Lande says:

        In the foreseeable future the ads are likely going to be tailored for each person based on what location they go to a lot. For example you might see a billboard for a certain jean company, while someone else sees ads for Mcdonalds. I’m not entirely comfortable with what is basically an implanted tracking cookie.

        • Donjo says:

          Well, social networking sites and the internet in general already do this… it’s not that big a leap. There are definitely going to be problems though, it’s still pretty interesting.

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        • The Colonel says:

          Only as scary as the effect of adverts. One could argue that the number of people who actively ignore and reject companies for their advertising would rapidly increase if it started to encroach so much into life. If you can’t look away, resentment would be a pretty automatic reaction to seeing a product.

  14. Phantoon says:

    I love you too, Nathan.

  15. The Army of None says:

    Staring eyes tag, staring eyes tag!

  16. Theory says:

    Desks on wheels!

  17. Skyhigh says:

    Terminator vision, eh?
    Then I can finally run around asking people: “Are you Sarah Connor?”

  18. Demon Beaver says:

    Where’s the Staring Eyes tag?

  19. LuNatic says:

    I didn’t ask for this.

    (Seriously? How am I the first?)

  20. TheWhippetLord says:

    I must be an enirely decadent and wicked person, but the phrase ‘wearable computing’ immediately summoned up memories of the Gentlemen’s Leisure Etchings featuring attractive ladies garbed in console controllers which abound on the internets.

  21. Kynrael says:

    “What does Gordon Freeman’s voice sound like? Silence.”

    This made my day. Thank you.

  22. RegisteredUser says:

    This is a direction for technological development we need to SERIOUSLY avoid.
    It is dehumanizing and dangerous.

    I’m the first guy for making the internet better, faster, more accessible for everyone and free, but when it comes to mucking with actual reality I’m more conservative than a tribal king.

    Don’t do this, don’t support it.

    • YourMessageHere says:

      It’s a HUD for everyday life, with massive potential benefits for almost everything. If it gets too much, you take off the glasses and there you are, unaugmented, unconfused reality. You are misunderstanding and/or overreacting. Also: the internet is part of actual reality.

    • fitzroy_doll says:

      I know which ending you picked in DX:HR

    • LionsPhil says:

      Oh come on, after decades of saying “shooting virtual men and running over their grandmothers all day is fine because we can tell the difference between fantasy and reality”, what could possibly be wrong with trying to break down the walls between fantasy and reality?

    • Apples says:

      How is it dehumanising and why is being ‘human’ – whatever that means – so great? I can see how it might be dangerous or abused for the wrong purposes, but what is ‘dehumanising’ about it?

    • Boosterh says:

      From what is being written here, I don’t think this is “mucking around with reality.” It is just taking your computer screen off your desk/lap/palm and putting it on a pair of glasses. As long as the thing comes with an off switch (because I am as good as blind if I have to take my glasses off) I don’t see the issue, as long as people are sensible about when to use it. (I imagine there will be some fairly strict laws regarding using this while driving, for example)

  23. LionsPhil says:

    Hmm. Well this certainly explains why Steam’s such a tempremental mess.

    It’s all very lovely and huggy for doing creative things, and spawning off branches to try weird crazy things like Workshop is fine, but for a shipping stable product I wish Steam actually had some conventional “structure” around it, like continuous integration and code review, rather than “anyone can check in whatever the heck they feel like when they feel like”. Maybe then Steam Cloud wouldn’t manage to get into conflicted states with itself on the same machine…

    Also, obligatory university students were doing this ten years ago. With Quake, no less. So the trick is not really the tech, beyond refining it, so much as working out what it’s good for, gamewise.

    • YourMessageHere says:

      Was hoping someone would mention this. I recall seeing some of that footage ages ago and wondering where it came from.

  24. Ernesto says:

    Mr Carmack wants to fly into orbit and Mr Newell wants to create next generation UIs…why not.
    I guess this is only human. Software giants at some point want to get their hands dirty and create something they can actually touch.

  25. Fireprufe15 says:

    This is why we don’t get Half Life 3, why Steam’s offline mode sucks and why Steam updates still aren’t optional.

    • LionsPhil says:

      If you mean updates to Steam itself, I suspect they don’t want to make them optional. Forcing all the clients to always be updated makes things substantially easier, since the only cross-version compatability you have to worry about is that any old version can download and install the newest one.

      Besides, it’s got a web browser in it that points outside of Steam’s own domain these days, in the overlay. And that means a need for WebKit security updates. (Another reason I wish Steam development was just a little more grown-up and formal: tracking upstream more closely than “when we feel like it”.)

  26. Kevin says:

    Valve putting off making Half-Life 3 is starting to reek of them chasing the easy money since there’s a fairly convincing argument that there’s a bigger dollar to be made in the multiplayer space (L4D DLC on consoles, TF2 and Portal 2 microtransactions, chasing professional gaming with CS: GO).

    Personally. I think that if we keep that apologist attitude of “Valve is a business” up, then we may as well say HL3 is never coming out.

    • Fincher says:

      HL3 isn’t easy money? Protests outside of Valve HQ, comments everywhere asking where it is, petitions and everything else? There’s GLARING demand for the next HL installment.

      Other devs would have milked the Half Life saga to hell and back by now if Valve didn’t have the “when it’s done”/”when we feel like it” ethic.

      • LionsPhil says:

        If you believe that Valve take the long term view, then no, it’s not. Sure, they could make easy money by releasing another lump of Gordon running around crowbarring headcrabs and killing Zombines with high-speed radiators, but if they want to preserve their reputation as some of the best game designers in the business, which is probably more valuable in the long term (and also on a personal level, I strongly suspect), they have to put tons of work into making it groundbreakingly good new Gordon, because they absolutely fumbled the whole episodic gaming thing and now people expect a sequel, not just more bitesize installments of the same.

  27. Blackcompany says:

    Given that the information displayed on your glasses/head wear is delivered via live streaming from the net in order to maintain up to date, relevant info, and given too that this information is displayed before your eyes as you navigate the world, we must assess the possible impact of an important scenario:

    Namely: What happens when someone hacks the system?

    Is that really a Dragon swooping down to eat you? Did you really see a mud crab the other day? Does that restaurant really serve Giant Toes and Cheese? Did Uncle Sheogorath really give that motel a 5 star review despite the lack of locks on the doors and the strange hole in the bathroom wall?

    The ideas are really cool. But the possible implications regarding security on a network that is responsible for the display of live information before your very eyes…is a potential hacker’s paradise. I mean, if you see zombies everywhere you look….

  28. Suits says:

    My guess of virtual reality to enhance HL3 wasnt even that far off then

  29. El_Emmental says:

    Staring scientific eyes !

  30. Lemming says:

    Penny Arcade did a tour of their new offices a couple of months ago, if you want to see photos of these wheelie desks in action! :)

    Valve tour

  31. Ostymandias says:

    Reading the introduction, all I heard in my head was this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pjs20vGAs50

    Silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence silence

    it’s good to now that sound is now not only mocking me for not being able to cast spells, but also for not ever going to hear any information whatsoever about episode three.

  32. apa says:

    My wearables are augmented.

  33. InternetBatman says:

    At least they’re skipping 3d. I don’t know why, but wearable computers constantly interfering with my vision and slowly removing me from humanity seems preferable to goddamn 3d games and movies.

    • YourMessageHere says:

      I don’t think I need anything to slowly remove me from humanity. It seems to be doing a great job of forcing me to distance myself from it without artificial aid.

  34. Vinraith says:

    “The logical endpoint is computing everywhere, all the time – that is, wearable computing – and I have no doubt that 20 years from now that will be standard.”

    That sounds like a dystopian nightmare.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Friend Computer would rather that you refer to it as “dystopian paradise”, troubleshooter.

      Please report to the nearest termination booth.

    • Apples says:

      Er, why? Most people already take their iPhones/Androids with them everywhere – they might as well be wearing them – and society has not yet collapsed. Computing is everywhere all the time RIGHT NOW.

      • LionsPhil says:

        And now all social gatherings with such people devolve into a bunch of people sat in a rough circle in silence staring at little gadgets in their hands.

        We’re turning to technological escapism and wide-angle socialisation away from actual face-to-face recreational social contact.

        • Chris D says:

          In that case surely a device that allows you to browse the internet and stare someone in the face at the same time has to be an improvement?

          • LionsPhil says:

            …no? A group of people staring vacantly into space like they’ve all been neuralized is hardly an improvement.

          • Chris D says:

            It’s a pretty big assumption that that’s what would happen. These are just glasses, not a direct implant into your brain. At the moment iphones and the like demand your full attention to operate, these wouldn’t have to.

          • Vinraith says:

            I just realized how much more dangerous the roads are going to be when these things become available. Of course they’ll demand your full attention, it’s a well documented truth human brains are poor multitaskers (despite humans believing they’re great at it).

          • LionsPhil says:

            “Sorry mate, I was using my AR glasses as a satnav when I noticed Stephen Fry posted something really interesting on twitter…”

            Of course, we’ll ban use of them, just like how banning the use of mobile phones while driving has completely stopped people using those, right?

          • Chris D says:

            I always figured turning into your grandparents was a more gradual process but apparently it can come on quite quickly.

          • LionsPhil says:

            And there’s the inevitable resort to “you just hate change”. Good ol’ Internet.

          • Chris D says:

            Well yes, but I like to think I delivered it quite nicely. But come on, every technological advancement has always had a crowd of people looking on and ending the end of the world as we know it. I remember having a similar discussion nearly twenty years ago about how more realistic computer games would lead to an inability to tell fantasy from reality and how the rise of the internet would mean people would stop talking to each other.

            As it happens most people can tell fantasy from reality just fine and the internet allows us to talk to people we would never have been able to before. Sure there are downsides but mostly technology is a net positive. There are issues to deal with, but we can deal with them.

            Believe me I’m aware of my own tendency to be a grumpy old git as much as anyone else, but that’s why I’m not going to indulge it today.

        • Apples says:

          This is assuming that a) everyone will do this, b) face-to-face communication is inherently superior to any other form of communication, and c) wearable computing will increase the incidence of people ignoring immediate face-to-face interaction. Any socially adept person knows it’s rude to use their phones while talking to someone in real life, and I think the same would apply for wearable computing. Regardless, I’m not convinced that a lessening of face-to-face meeting will substantially diminish relationships or lead to a dystopia.

          If all your friends sit around silently using their iphones when you meet up, your friends are lame. I only know one person who does this and everyone hates it.

          edit: well also even if we imagine a scenario in which a group of people meet up and ‘type’ to each other instaed of physically talking, maybe even while simultaneously sending messages to people who are not physically present, how will it be terrible and dystopian?

          • LionsPhil says:

            Quite aside from the odd shift between the second and third paragraphs, it’s inaccurate to characterise all mobile device fiddling as on a par with actually having a discussion with someone. An argument in a comment thread sure isn’t, and it’s a thousand times more “interaction” than scouring random RSS feeds of fake Steve Jobs posts or funny YouTube videos of cats, even if you do upvote them and post “LOL”.

            “Dystopian” is probably the usual ha-ha-only-serious hyperbole. Sci-fi usually does overshoot for effect, you know.

          • Apples says:

            We are “actually” having a discussion right now, as far as I’m concerned. If we met up face to face, from my perspective the interacton would likely be of lower quality, not higher, as I don’t think verbal face-to-face communication is actually a very good or efficient way for debating things. For hanging out with friends, maybe, but not for actual discussions. I understand if you feel differently, but you cannot imply that your feelings about social interaction are somehow correct and deviation from them result in objectively poorer interaction.

            Saying “well posting LOL on a youtube video isn’t interaction” is irrelevant as that is not attempting to be analogous to face-to-face social interaction, it is a mass broadcast that is more self-focused than anything else. This, on the other hand, is me talking directly to you. If I was doing it on a wearable device, or doing it sitting next to you at a bar, it would not somehow become worse or better to me. You can’t classify these words, an argument on a comment thread, being typed as “fiddling on a device” and them being spoken out loud to you as “an actual discussion” – what is the distinction apart from the medium? If your like of one and dislike of the other is not ludditism and fear of change, or personal preference which cannot be extended to everyone, what is the reason for it?

            Also it is inaccurate to classify all uses of devices as ‘fiddling’ and to portray any use of them as probably harmful!

          • LionsPhil says:

            Again, this appears to be based on the dubious notion that what people are doing on their devices is equivalent to what they would be doing face-to-face. It is not merely the medium; it is also the message.

          • Apples says:

            Well I guess as long as you’re convinced, despite all evidence to the contrary, that people using devices are all blithering morons who are reduced to typing LOL at pictures of kittens as soon as they go on the internet, then there’s no point arguing about this, is there? You know the internet is composed of real people, and has the same mix of idiots and genuises as in real life because they are actual people that exist in real life, right? Why do you think people who type stupid crap on facebook would be involved in higher-minded activites in real life rather than saying stupid crap out loud to their friends? The medium is independent of the message here, you can type anything on a device, I don’t know why you think they are inextricably linked.

  35. tgoat says:

    “What does Gordon Freeman’s voice sound like?”

    This is what Gordo’s voice will always be for me:

  36. Hoaxfish says:

    Will our eyeballs require always-on internet connection to see things?

  37. Premium User Badge

    Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    Holy **** I just realized I wear Gordon Freeman glasses. No wonder I was so drawn to them in the shop!

  38. Quaib says:

    What it comes down to is this:
    Idiots that feel they need all the latest gadgets, think a higher number tacked on the same product is worth dishing out an easy thousand dollars for, etc., will always go for these stupid things.
    Those with sense, as few as they may be, will not.
    It’s always been the case that idiots have outnumbered reasonable people.

  39. Crius says:

    Google: We esteem to release the Google Glasses at the end of 2012.
    Valve: We esteem to.. wait.. what “esteem” means? Nevermind, we’re talking about hats? Right?

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  41. Snake Stapler says:

    Yay, more ads. Right up the retina.