For four-eyes only: The Google Glass future is here

Google started it; now the peeper parade has taken over CES, where several strains of smart glasses litter the show floor

CES is always a hard time of the year for me. Vegas in January embodies the best and the worst for the technophile set. A glittering nightscape of twinkling ice cubes in watery cocktails, flashing icons on screaming slot machines, and huge, blinking casino marquees hawking entertainment wonders from Don Rickles to something called the Thunder from Down Under -- it's a tough place and a fast lane coming this close after New Year's in New York.

All that alcohol, all those lights, and all the other roiling vices that are said to always stay behind in Sin City, they make it hard to function during daylight hours. A day at CES is work, and if you're still breathing through your mouth from last night's scotch-soaked "Lion King" cast party at the Spearmint Rhino, you're not going to make it.

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After many years and more than a few mornings waking up feeling sticky in places I'd rather not remember, I've learned that the trick to CES is compartmentalization. Or to put it into terms a court-mandated substance abuse counselor might use, "Just take it one step at a time." That's the RXC strategy for CES: one step at a time.

But drug counselors get 12 steps, whereas I only have five to seven depending on the number of pre- or post-show event days. You have to pick your gadget fads carefully in this environment, starting with the Obvious, moving to the Curious, and ending with the Hidden Hotness. That last one is a pain to find, but since this is only Day 2, I don't have to worry about it yet.

Four-eyes for the win

Today, I have to buckle down and do away with the Obvious. If you can't guess what that is, you need to take your free Bud Light, step away from the blackjack table, and open your eyes. Because that's what the Obvious is all about this year: your eyes -- or, rather, what goes over them, namely glasses. Google Glass may have hogged the spotlight last year, but in the early days of 2014, the competition has taken off like racetrack greyhounds, and now there's a slavering pack chasing the promise of the ocular bunny.

I'm not a young man anymore, so forgive my jaded perspective on these developments. In the misty times of our forefathers, I ventured to Vegas for the annual Comdex show, similar to CES but larger and with even less shame. With many other techno-journalistic nomads, I wandered that Geeklantis annually for more than half a decade before it sank into the desert, but in that time there was always one thing we could count on: the IBM Wearable Computer Guys. (At least, I think it was IBM; it's hard remembering things before Wikipedia.)

Every year, Big Blue picked two names from the Employees We'd Like To See Less Of hat and sent them to Comdex with Batman-style utility belts (only bigger and clunkier) wired to various extremities I can't recall, but especially to a pair of half glasses -- meaning a set of glasses that allowed vision through only one lens, reserving the other for important electronic updates like the C: prompt. Every year we had a pool going: On which day and in which convention hall would one of these poor, depth-perception-deprived bastards take a header down a flight of stairs? Watching a flailing product manager tumbling backside over teakettle, bleating piteously with $100,000 worth of electronics swirling in the air around him is worth a generous laugh. But imagining that on a broad scale, a sidewalk-during-rush-hour scale or an Olympic-games-opening-ceremonies scale -- well, that's hilarious.

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