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Charmed Announces Crusoe-based Linux Wearable 158

Posted by timothy
from the gargoyles-take-heed dept.
isdale writes: "Charmed Technology, founded by MIT Media Lab graduates, announced what it claims is the fastest available wearable computer -- 800Mhz Crusoe TM5800 processor. The CharmedIT comes standard with a 266 Mhz Pentium MMX for about $2k. The Crusoe upgrade costs another $500. The OS is extra ($250 for RedHat or Debian), as is the display, input device, carrying case, battery, charger, usable application ... if that isn't enough options, you can also get a DIY kit."
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Charmed Announces Crusoe-based Linux Wearable

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    You get a chip that runs as fast as the Pentium 200 MMX.

    Look! I'm cool cuz I run a Transmeta backpack computer! Freaking l337 d00dz!
  • by Rampant Atrocity (559341) on Monday April 22, 2002 @09:50PM (#3392161)
    The Crusoe upgrade costs another $500. The OS is extra ($250 for RedHat or Debian)

    *cough* *sputter*
    • I wonder how (thinking of the market this is aimed at) they think they can get away with prices like that!
      • Re:Prices please? (Score:4, Informative)

        by tenman (247215) <slashdot DOT org AT netsuai DOT com> on Monday April 22, 2002 @11:17PM (#3392493) Journal
        Note: I reply here because I looked down the threads, and there are no real answers to the "who would buy this" questions

        Before you go any further, realize that this device is built for commercial applications. This is for a nurse that needs to know who and where all of her critical care beds are. This is for the contruction worker that is out on side, and can look at the land and see a 3D outline of the building and can punch the earth in the right spots. Devices like this could even be good for museums who want to give ppl an interactive tour.

        The only people who would buy a box like this are the people who can use these boxes to make (or save) money with them.

        Also note, that in the 70's few really saw the use of having a whole floor of your building dedicated to bulky computer, and almost nobody could afford one.

        Think about this as you read all the I337 H4z0r'z post about "who would buy..."
        • Re:Prices please? (Score:2, Informative)

          by john82 (68332)
          Nope.

          For every use you propose, there are already better and much cheaper solutions.
          ex 1: PocketPC with wireless
          ex 2: It's called a blueprint
          ex 3: tape, MD, DVD, wireless-enabled PDA. Take your pick.

          This is an interesting idea, but at this price schedule it's going nowhere. In the same field, do you really expect this to compete with Xybernaut? They've got a head start and still aren't doing that great.
      • Re:Prices please? (Score:3, Informative)

        by tftp (111690)
        Adding to tenman's comment above. They are competing with Xybernaut [xybernaut.com] - who charges even more obscene prices for the very similar hardware. Indeed, this is a wearable commercial market, not geek's market. Any geek can make very similar wearable from any PDA, like Zaurus.

        Strength of this offering is in industrial grade ruggedness, modularity and completeness - businesses are not likely to buy a one-of-a-kind wearable from a geek next door; they want volume, reliability, FCC, CE and UL approvals, repairs and support, and much more - something that only a stable business can offer.

      • I wonder how (thinking of the market this is aimed at) they think they can get away with prices like that!

        The market they're aimed at (research groups, expensive production facilities in corporations, potentially military and healthcare) are all used to paying this kind of money.
    • Re:Prices please? (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by awptic (211411)
      I didn't see any mention of an external media drive (cdrom, floppy, etc.), I think they get away with it by just making it extremely hard to install anything... pretty sleezy if you ask me.
      • The only thing similar I remember was when I bought a harddrive by credit card over the phone they wanted me to pay an extra £6 for the OS to be installed on it.
    • So? Install it yourself, then.

      People are willing to pay for convenience, but maybe not that much. :)
  • by Ooblek (544753)
    Be the first kid on your block to blow $2500 on this ultra cool wearable PC! Not only will you really look like a geek, but everyone will know who to talk to for some extra gas and grocery money! For an additional $15k, you can get the Honda walking robot docking station and play Ultraman with your friends in your front yard. (Turbo Jet and wing kit for robot sold seperately.)
    • I remember the envy and hate my fourth-grade friends directed towards me when I was the first kid with Reebok Pumps...The first day I wore them to P.E., they left the field covered with intentional scuffs and mud-prints

      I am glad to be grown-up now and can be "wearable-ist in the closet." Who knows what fourth-graders will do to the modern-nerd.
  • Well... first of all, it causes a lot of problems when it rains and you don't have an umbrella.
    However, it is perfect for 802.11b hunting!
  • by standards (461431) on Monday April 22, 2002 @09:56PM (#3392184)
    For some reason, this very much reminds me of the old Osborne "portable" computer.

    At the time, it was pretty darn cool. But soon we laughed hard at the people who bought one.

    See Osborne History [ucdavis.edu]

  • Finally. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Soko (17987) on Monday April 22, 2002 @09:57PM (#3392190) Homepage
    Here's an OEM that shows the true cost of Windows 2000. Directly beneath the RedHat price is the price of Windows 2000 pre-loaded - $450, which means it's $200 more.

    This is likely an off-the-shelf, non OEM price (since our Redmond frinds aren't too kind to PC makers who don't feature thier OS exclusively)

    Nice to see.

    Soko
    • It is rather high for an OS install. Microsoft's OEM price is $129 that is for you or I. Pricewatch
      • Wrong button.. link http://www.compuplus.com/insidepage.php3?sid=8hu28 39j46rg615&id=450 Linux with manuals and box is rarely over 60 bucks. Any system builder either images or scripts the install so this is rather high. Seems to me like anyone buying these doodads is rather profiecient and is willing to put it on themselves especially to save a couple hundred bucks. So any installation fee over $50 is too high
  • Charmed? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Nathdot (465087) on Monday April 22, 2002 @09:59PM (#3392195)
    Charmed Announces Crusoe-based Linux Wearable???

    I liked the episode last season better, where the three sisters fought the Gnu Debian C# compiler.

    :)
  • It's obvious why half of the fundamental computing technologies have come from MIT. They set high standards, their solutions are elegant, and they always stay ahead of the curve.

    They set up their wearable computing lab seven or eight years ago already. They were patient and the market came to them. Now they are reaping the rewards. Kudos to MIT, another job well done.
  • umm... who is ACTUALLY going to pay 2500 dollars for a piece of crap computer just so they can wear it? if someone wants to make these things mainstream, they have to be somewhat affordable. how much R&D can there possibly freakin be?!? i refuse to believe that the parts come anywhere close to being this expensive.
  • Let's see here...

    $1995 for the basic board.

    $1500 for the EveryDay Use Bundle (it includes Linux, so no $250 charge for a free OS, and I'd like to be able to use the computer for more than 2 hours)

    $875 for the TM5800 (I'm not going back to a 266 mhz processor and I'd like to be able to listen to my MP3s with this thing)

    $2500 for the CO-3 monitor (so I can actually see what I'm doing)

    That'd be a bit expensive for something that's not even as powerful as a laptop. I don't think it's even as useful - those Twiddlers are confusing (I've tried), and I doubt a 1" high screen would be particularly easy to focus on when it's 1 inch away from your eye.

    If I really wanted all that, why not just get a Xybernaut poma [xybernautonline.com] for $1499?
  • And for that matter, $450 for Win2k?

    Something about that just does'nt sit right. Red hat or Debian typically install with ease.. so does this mean that the hardware is so tricky and propritary they feel they need to charge $250 just to get the thing to work?

    Or are the marketing people just on something.
  • Why not.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pennsol (317791) on Monday April 22, 2002 @10:23PM (#3392286) Homepage
    Put one of these http://www.theregus.com/content/54/24709.html in your pocket i'm sure it will run your favorite flavor of *nix and it's half the price..with the docking station...
    • Why not just stick Linux [ http://sourceforge.net/projects/linux-7110/ [sourceforge.net] ](or BSD [lost the URL] ) on a Psion [ http://www.psion.co.uk [psion.co.uk] ].
      They are out NOW, low in price and come with a keyboard! :)
      • Good thinking..but i was trying to justify the high cost vs. hardware that you get.. as seeing that the latest and greatest in small portable computers is half the price of this..whatever it is they're trying to pawn off as a real computer.. 266 pentium..just doesn't seem right...
        • but i was trying to justify the high cost vs. hardware that you get
          You can't, I would not bother a 206MHz proc w/ 64MB RAM is a new PDA and that'll only set you back ~$500!

          mlk
      • I hate to say it, but we've all talked about this before... why not the Cappuccino?
        I know the DC in makes it a problem, but it'd be great for a ultraportable computer. (possibly wearable)...
        http://www.cappuccinopc.com/
  • ...when i get stranded on a desert island. does it come w/ girl friday?
  • Just look at his picture [wearcam.org].
  • Yes!!!! One more expensive thing to wear around and end up breaking in one odd way or another. You have got to love this stuff....its great!!!!
  • Why do this..? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by zeno_2 (518291) on Monday April 22, 2002 @10:44PM (#3392374)
    From what I can see this is a company that is just starting up. This thing that they are selling, in my opinion, is pretty overpriced. With the money that it took to buy all the accessories, you could probably make yourself for cheaper. I hope they do well, but I don't see the masses of people buying any of those, let along a single person.

    I would do something like this:

    Make a wearable computer for lets say.. people that stock large amounts of stuff in warehouses. Would be pretty handy to have the full inventory at the press of a button, without having to look away. Make a few of these units, approach some large company who have a lot of these workers, and see if you can get a few of them to use it for a few days to see if its useful. It probably will, or they didn't make it right. Do this to a few different companies/different markets, and you have quite a base of users out there, and you then market it to the public, using the above examples of how good it works.

    I read thru their website a bit, didn't really see much of any of that going on. Like I said, I hope they do well, but I don't think they are doing it right if they want it to take off..
    • From what I can see this is a company that is just starting up. This thing that they are selling, in my opinion, is pretty overpriced.

      Actually, this research team has been around in some form for about twelve years. Early prototypes were too heavy to lift and needed to be carted around. They had an operating range limited by the length of cable, usually about 500 feet, and they had some satellite proof-of-concept. They kept at it, though, and the current product, whatever its faults, is a viable commercial product. You probably shouldn't pick faults unless you are willing to put in that kind of effort yourself. What has the last dozen years of your life produced other than worthless Slashdot trolling?
      • You really can't comeback with something like.. "what have you done with the last 12 years of my life" because it doesn't work. I can put everyone up to the standards of some of the greats of our time, and it will make everyone look like monkeys. All I am saying is that I don't see a good outlook for a company trying to sell these computers, which in my opinion, are overpriced. I am allowed to have an opinion from what I can remember. And its not like im doing senseless slashdot trolling, as I gave an example of how I would do this instead.

        So, what have you done in the last 10 years besides trying to squash down the thoughts of others?
    • Xybernaut [xybernaut.com] already does this. They had several large industrial clients, like telecom workers, who used the wearables for "hands free" computing / reference.

      Websurfing done right! StumbleUpon [stumbleupon.com]
  • This is one of those ads that's supposed to look like news, isn't it? It just doesn't seem newsworthy enough.
  • I thought Infocharms/CharmedIT, with their cyber-fashion shows, was basically a brilliant excuse for hot models to get close with technogeeks ;) Hrm, I guess every company has to put out a product or two to keep the VC money flowing, and if that's what it takes to retain those models, so be it!

    I'm looking forward to the bluetooth G-string and PDA bra (under-wireless of course)in the next show. Keep them coming!
  • I've got an old Pentium 266 MMX that I've been using as a server (running OpenBSD)... If you had asked me, aside from use to me, how much it was worth, I'd have said no more than $50, and that's for the new power supply in it.

    Thanks to the boys from the Media Lab for giving my computer a new pricetag. All I have to do is fit this puppy into a smaller box. =)
  • I'd like to post the text of a link I have on one of my sites called "What my wearable computer is (and isn't) that may help dispel some preconceptions. Not all of the ideas I have listed below are unique to me - some are mine, some were also conceived by others, and some are taken from people far more intelligent and insightful than I.

    What my Wearable Computer Is (and Isn't)

    I am developing a device I call the PIASYS (pie' AH sis), or Personal Intelligence Augmentation SYStem. It is a specialized Wearable Computer.

    When most people hear the term "Wearable Computer", they usually picture things like big ugly head-mounted displays [man-machines.com], cumbersome input methods [man-machines.com] (including voice control), bulky hardware [man-machines.com], and of course, just plain looking too "different" [man-machines.com] (or as described on Slashdot [slashdot.org]: "like a borg reject").

    So, there are plenty of preconceptions about wearable computers.

    However, the PIASYS has neither a mouse nor a keyboard. Neither does it use voice recognition as its primary interface. The only input is a few conveniently-located buttons (on a ring, a pen, etc). The screen is embedded in a pair of sunglasses, superimposing the computer's output onto the "Real World". A video camera accompanies the display in the glasses. The hardware all fits into a small package, easily worn under clothing. In fact, it's not obvious a person wearing the PISYS is in fact wearing or even using a computer.

    Does it replace a "Real" computer? No. Why? Because the PIASYS does mostly totally different things than a desktop system. And for good reason. The PIASYS is not made to allow you to write code on the bus, or to use a CAD program in the park (though you could do these things if you wanted). The PIASYS is instead intended to enhance those abilities we already have and use in our everyday lives. It helps you see, it helps you remember, it helps you memorize, and it helps you think more efficiently (just as a calculator helps you do math more efficiently). And most importantly, it is private. The data, unless explicitly shared, is no one's but yours.

    The PIASYS is designed around two core concepts. First, my concept of "Personal Intelligence", and secondly the concept of "Intelligence Augmentation". It is the idea of having a system available to you that is both personal and private, and designed to greatly enhance your ability to gather, store, and recall useful news, information, and resources (intelligence) pertaining to you and your personal space.Also, it serves as an additional "brain", offering the brute force computational ability of a computer at your fingertips, as well as the resources of the Internet, and the resources of other people (whom you can connect to and confer with via the PIASYS or similar wearable system).

    For example, the PIASYS effects a great enhancement of personal intelligence by being able to perform such tasks as:

    Face Recognition

    Intelligent Reminder Management

    Navigation Aiding

    Retroactive Recording of Audio and Video

    Instant Messaging

    Providing a limited (and sometimes literal) Photographic Memory

    Providing realtime Reference Materials

    Allowing Live Collaborative Conferencing

    That's only a few of the immense possibilities.

    So, without a mouse or keyboard - how does one "use" the PIASYS? The short answer is that it mostly uses itself. It is designed not to be used like a desktop computer, but rather to sit in the background, quietly assisting you in whatever ELSE you may be doing, rather than requiring you to spend your time interfacing to IT.

    In practical terms, the PIASYS uses environmental and contextual factors as most of it's input. The rest is supplied in the form of commands or confirmations by the user. A few simple buttons are sufficient to allow the user to tell the PIASYS what to do in any given situation.

    Some functions require explicit input (commands). For example, imagine someone has just told you a name and phone number. You could (with a simple button click) tell your PIASYS to "record video and audio from five seconds ago" immediately after hearing the needed information -- which could then serve as a reminder. You could do a similar recording of an event that has already happened in other circumstances: after witnessing an accident, after dealing with an official you suspect may change his or her story, or after seeing or hearing something especially interesting.

    Other inputs are implicit, rather than explicit. Your PIASYS may automatically record recent events after your pulse rises sharply, for example. A video or audio or textual reminder may be presented automatically once you have reached a certain location. Or when you see a certain object, or a certain person (Face Recognition).

    A simple input from the user (like clicking his or her ring) can serve as confirmation, rather than command. For example, the PIASYS can record every direction change you take as you are travelling, then ask if you would like them replayed to retrace your steps when it detects you may be lost (which it may infer by your uncertain movements).

    The point is that the PIASYS is not a desktop replacement - nor is it even a desktop contender. It is a computer, but with a completely different purpose: to help you in your everyday life and allow you more control over yourself, your data, and your private space -- not less.

    For more information about the issues I attempt to address with the PIASYS (as well as other solutions), visit the Philosophy [man-machines.com] links here at Man-Machines.

    Some good information can also be had from Professor Steve Mann's "Cyborg - Digital Destiny and Human Possibility in the Age of the Wearable Computer" [indigo.ca].

    • Essentially what a PDA is supposed to be: Yer Little Buddy.

      Benefits of such a system are obvious: Never forget a face, never miss an appointment, never lose a note again. But what are the drawbacks?

      Humans acclimate themselves to subtle stimuli; eventually this thing will -- because it might respond to pulse increases, pupil dilation, etc. -- measure your very emotional responses and respond in kind. This would produce a feedback loop. Do you really want to have such a thing tied intimately to your mental processes?

      Further, if this is a device that ends up connected (which it would undoubtedly end up being, what with the rampant need to surf), they will invariably become hacked in some fashion. At first, this means lost/hijacked data; however, in the long run, there's no reason that the emotional feedback element couldn't be directly manipulated. Need to steal someone from a rival company? Make them fall in love with their interviewer, and let their hormones do your dirty work. Make them take the wrong turns to work so often in the morning that they start to think it's "fated".

      People's perceptions are easy to mold, especially when they don't know any better.

      Hey, I'd be first in line to buy such a rig. I won't pretend there aren't any possible problems, though. Everything is give-and-take. Pay attention to the take.

  • [This comment for MT readers [megatokyo.com] only! :) ]

    I'd rather have a better PS2 pherpherial [megatokyo.com] myself.

  • It slips our minds that some of the best connected, high-tech clothing are no further than the local law enforcement. Next time you have a chance, take a look at police officer belt straps and clothing. Pretty slick and they're capable of fragging those uglies too!

    Interesting stuff from Charmed.
  • While supplies last...I will offer my black backpack for you to put your computer in and only charge a fraction of the price!
  • A wearable with a Red Hat, sounds good to me :)
  • small lightweight,firewire,usb,pcmcia,built in camera,15gig harddrive 128+ram, sound,tv out, audio in.
    $1500-$2000 - depending which processor and any extras added
    add extra long life battery +400$
    The case is probably not as rugged but I havent had any problems. Also it has a lcd/monitor for the interim while you wait for that highe res low price covert monitor to come. For "My" list of uses it came out better for me to grab the vaio.
  • by jpatokal (96361) on Tuesday April 23, 2002 @05:05AM (#3393490) Homepage
    I'm seeing a lot of griping here about how they dare to charge $250 for installing Linux and how the entire system is overpriced -- well hey, build your own then. The hardware design is open source and available right here [charmed.com], and the full list of commercial components used to build the kit is available here [charmed.com].

    Also, the $6000 price tag is not particularly unreasonable for a commercial wearable computer, eg. Xybernaut [xybernaut.com]'s stuff isn't much cheaper. Last year I had the job of purchasing a wearable for our lab -- we almost went with the earlier model of CharmIT, but in the end decided that we needed a bit more power and expandability, so we rolled our own [u-tokyo.ac.jp]. Had the Crusoe version existed then, we quite probably would have chosen it.

    Cheers,
    -j.

    • I wonder how much more useful a 266mhz Pentium wearable would be than a Sharp Zaurus hacked to use a head-mounted display, like a Sony glasstron. I played with a Zaurus the other day, and noted that it had both SD and CF slots. Sandisk 512 MB CF is $329.99 direct, and I know of few linux apps that won't run in 128MB RAM and 512MB disk.

      Given the power of today's handhelds, I think the wearables makers might just have to lower their prices.
      • I wonder how much more useful a 266mhz Pentium wearable would be than a Sharp Zaurus hacked to use a head-mounted display, like a Sony glasstron. I played with a Zaurus the other day, and noted that it had both SD and CF slots. Sandisk 512 MB CF is $329.99 direct, and I know of few linux apps that won't run in 128MB RAM and 512MB disk.

        A good question, but just how are you going to "hack" a Zaurus to use a head-mounted display, or any kind of wearable-friendly input? The sort of miniaturization used in the Zaurus needs big factory runs to be profitable, and the market for wearables remains tiny. In addition, VGA-quality head-mounted displays are expensive, the basic Glasstron is next to useless because of its poor resolution and NTSC-only input. (Yes, there was a PC Glasstron as well, but it was terribly bulky and expensive, and it's been discontinued anyway.)

        Also, instead of forking out big bucks for huge chunks of solid memory, IBM's CompactFlash Microdrives are a much more affordable solution -- you can get as much as an gig's storage with one.

        Cheers,
        -j.

        • I spent some more time thinking this through, and I believe I'll argue both points.

          For a wearable application one would want as few moving parts as possible, low power consumption, and low heat output. I believe solid state CF wins on all counts. In fact, the Sandisk product was actually so tempting to me that I bought a 512 MB CF card this afternoon, albeit for a camera and not for a PDA.

          As for the display, the Zaurus does quite well with 240*320, which should work with Sony's cheap ($500) Video Glasstron. (resolution of 800x255) Other head mounted displays at the exact resolution of 320*240 exist. Information is available from Steve Mann. (the Canadian cyborg guy in the news lately.)

          I think I'll start playing with this at work. It's not too far off my remit. All I have to do is find a problem to solve that needs a wearable solution. :-)
  • I saw Thad Starner demonstrate a Charmed prototype last year.

    I really want one. When the color display becomes affordable I'll buy one.

    What makes a wearable computer different from a palm or laptop computer is that you don't have to look away from the real world to see the display. The display appears to float within the real world. Wearable computers have long battery life and keyboards that allow you to type at near full speed while walking.

    If you only use your wearable computer to run regular programs or play music it isn't worth the extra money. The only benefit is an extra half hour to do email as you walk to your office.

    The target audience for the Charmed kit is people working on wearable-only applications, like the "remembrance agent" or "augmented reality."
  • Just what am I supposed to do with this - am I missing something? The already existing handhelds are smaller, lighter and even if I buy every type of accessory and CF card out there they are probably still cheaper. And there are some of them that are able to run Linux.

    At $200 I would say "OK, nice platform for embedded solutions". But for an order of magnitude more I just don't see the gap that the CharmIT is trying to fill.
  • their case is made of flexible aluminum

    i am holding out for flexible AND transparent

    (and i hear rumors that flexible transparent aluminum is also a dessert topping)
  • Plano eyeglasses (for use if you do not wear eyeglasses),

    Now that's knowing your audience.

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