The setting for this device is Neal Stephenson’s imagining, in the book Snow Crash, of North America in the future after the dissolution of the United States was a settled affair. Corporations have taken over the world and divided it up into fiefdoms.
The main character of the story, Hiro Protagonist, is a freelance hacker and, at the beginning of the story, a pizza delivery guy for the mafia. He spends a lot of time in the Metaverse, a virtual reality world overseen by the Association of Computing Machinery. To take part in the Metaverse, the user wears a set of goggles, and a computer draws on the surface of the goggles with lasers. Noise canceling speakers mounted on the sides of the goggles produce the sounds of the Metaverse.
Many hackers work for the Central Intelligence Corporation. The information that the “stringers” gather is uploaded to the Library of Congress which merged with the CIC years ago. (Nobody is quite certain what congress means anymore.) Data can be gathered from anywhere in the physical world or the Metaverse. Typically, data is then sold to other corporations that use the information to gain a competitive advantage against other corporations or market new products.
Some hackers have the entire computer system strapped to their bodies and goggles that can see both the Metaverse and real world in several wavelengths of light at the same time. Called “Gargoyles” for their strange looks and poor social skills, they roam the earth gathering all the information they can and uploading it to the Library of Congress – at least, until the CIC decides they’re uploading too much useless information, in which case, they’re fired.
The so-called Gargoyle Goggles are designed to gather as much information about one’s surroundings as possible. Vision can be presented in alternate wavelengths of light, tactical displays that show hazards, and informational displays that cross-reference what one is seeing with information from the Library of Congress. The goggles also have a laser scanner designed to scan a person’s retina, allowing the Gargoyle to immediately identify almost anyone.