Often at TED, there's bit of innovation that is causing the most conversation, and it is the thing that's just around the corner... not yet public but about to go wide.
This year, the buzz is all about wearable computing. The continued morphing of man and machine. There are a number of attempts that are already live. The quantified self movement is in wide display with everything from the FitBit, and the beta version of the FitBit bracelet that a few TEDsters are beta testing, to the Jawbone UP. The UP was given out to every one of TED's 1200+ attendees and has a big presence at the conference. NY Times Columnist and PBS documentary host David Pogue showed of a wrist full of wearable tech with watch computers from a bunch of big players. Spoiler alert - too early to get excited about wrist-watch computing. Maybe Apple will change that if the rumors are true.
But the big elephant in the room is Google Glass - the eyewear enabled 'heads up' display that turns the whole world into an augmented reality video experience. A bunch of Google folks were at the conference wearing Google Glass, and suffice it to say there was no shortage of device envy.
When Sergey Brin made an unannounced appearance at the conference on Wednesday morning... his demo on the main stage officially launched the run up to the product's public release. As a place to launch something, TED may be the best in the world. Over a thousand early adopters and techno geeks are now ready to prime the pump and move wearable computing out of the lab and into the world.
Now let's be clear, the arrival of Google Glass raises all kinds of questions about the line between the real world and the on-line world. The Street wrote a pointy piece this week questioning the impact of technology that effectively puts us all under surveillance 24/7 saying:
"Google Glasses will impact societal behavior from the moment they arrive. As soon as you see them, you're aware that you might be filmed. Google Glasses will be the critical ingredient in the personal information arms race of the (soon to arrive) future."
One thing is for sure - Google Glass will changes the way we interact with our computers - and the current model of compulsively checking our phones won't be the only way we stay connected. But as Brin pointed out on the TED stage, one of the big changes that will happen quickly is our ability to capture images and video 'on the fly' during our daily lives. When TED Curator Chris Anderson asked Brin if he'd been recording him during a post TED talk Q&A, Brin responded: "Yes, I was, but then I stopped." The audience laughed - but the point was made. We will be on camera, recorded and even re-broadcast in real time in the new world of wearable computing.
Google Glass will be out of the labs in in the hands of consumers this year - and it's sure to be a shift how computers and people interact. And how people interact with each other as well.
So log on -and stay tuned in.