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Whereables? 101

Posted by Cliff
from the still-a-small-niche dept.
d4 asks: "Thad Starner has been using a wearable computer daily since 1993, and Steve Mann has had an impressive amount of press coverage over the years. But if you want wearable computing in 2005, it seems you must build your own system. Why, after all this time and attention, are wearables still not commercially available?"
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Whereables?

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  • Reboot? (Score:3, Funny)

    by orangeguru (411012) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:32PM (#11750364) Homepage
    I don't want to reboot by pants! And I don't want a virus in my jacket ...
  • maybe... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by same_old_story (833424) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:32PM (#11750367)
    because they are still bulky and pretty useless...
    • saying "pretty useless" is a bit generous. they're useless ;>
    • Re:maybe... (Score:3, Interesting)

      Not only that, but consider the niche they target. Plenty of niche requirements are not commercially available.

      Example: where are the consumer targetted RAID-capable NAS units? Sure, I can buy RAID NAS devices from plenty of vendors, but a quick peek shows Iomega's chepest RAID capable unit over the $1,000 range new (and don't go spouting off on remanufactured units on ebay; that doesn't count). This is a simple example, but the NAS from other vendors is pretty much the same deal. Consumer-line NAS ex
    • Re:maybe... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Grab (126025)
      For a short answer, that's basically it. :-)

      For a long answer:-
      * Batteries still don't last long enough and are still too heavy.
      * Chording keyboards are still immature, expensive, clunky and not widely available.
      * There still isn't a suitable viewing mechanism - all current ones suffer from one or more of: not enough resolution; can't support colour; produces eye-strain; too heavy; too clunky; too expensive; too fragile; requires too much power drain.

      So if you want a wearable, you're stuck with a low-powe
  • Because (Score:5, Funny)

    by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:32PM (#11750372) Homepage Journal
    Even geeks want to try and find a date!
    • Re:Because (Score:3, Funny)

      by gstoddart (321705)
      Even geeks want to try and find a date!


      Obviously neither of the two gentlemen listed in the story -- think Harold from Red Green gone horribly wrong.
      • by trims (10010)

        Obviously, you've never met Thad's wife, Tavenner. She's fantastic in all senses of the word.

        Hi Tavenner!

        -Erik

  • 3 Simple Reasons (Score:5, Insightful)

    by smug_lisp_weenie (824771) * <cbarski.4503440@bloglines.com> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:33PM (#11750382) Homepage
    1. Battery life- Batteries haven't been keeping up with other computer components in terms of improvements. A hefty CPU just drains them too quickly- And without a hefty CPU a Palm PC form factor is more practical.
    2. Headaches- Nobody has figured out how to make an eyeglass display that doesn't cause lots of complaints about migranes. The atari VR system and the Nintendo VR both got killed by this.
    3. Dork factor- Until Apple releases an iWearable and tempts all the hipster-wannabes with commercials, you just can't walk around with this gear in public without feeling weird- Just like with MP3 players pre-ipod.
    • One more. (Score:5, Funny)

      by jfisherwa (323744) <jason.fisher@gmail.cTOKYOom minus city> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:53PM (#11750600) Homepage
      4. Basements- Having a wearable computer would mean that geeks would actually have to enter the unforgiving world that awaits beneath the scorching sun.
    • If they ever mass-produce the Eyetap, it wouldn't be so bad.

      The Eyetap is a discrete retinal projector that sits over a single eye. It's thin (half-inch wide) and has an arm that goes back behind your ear. Cord goes down the back of your neck.

      I've seen pictures of it on the proof-of-concept site and its more of an "what's that? hmm I dunno" than a "omgnerd look at that guy hes got a computer on his face"
  • Show me the killer app for a wearable, hell, show me 'a' worthwhile application that won't require millions in R&D.
    • 1) Rewind and instant-replay for your life.
      2) porn! porn! porn!
    • Does a smart phone count?
      The killer app is voice.
      • Well, that is probably the largest driving force.

        But as technology progresses, they'll be able to fit them into smaller and smaller packages, maybe even make one that fits into the palm of your hand. I bet the money in voice is in phones like that.
    • The killer app is direct and instant access to the combined knowledge of mankind. Imagine being able to google an answer to a question in the field in real time.
      • Imagine being able to google an answer to a question in the field in real time.

        "Hi Issac! We were just going down to the club. Want to come? You know, the club. The club downtown. The club in downtown New York. The other club in downtown New York. You know, the club with great lobster and that cute waitress. No, still in New York. Next. Next. Next. Next. You know, the one we went for Bill's Birthday last year? Not Mr. Bill, our Bill, from work. Yes, last year. I mean, the year before. Of
    • overlay a washu-term onto my reality and you can take 50% of my paycheck for life. There's your killer app.
    • Re:No 'Killer App' (Score:4, Informative)

      by golgotha007 (62687) on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @01:55PM (#11757178)
      If you're not trolling and really interested in a "killer app" with regards to wearable computing, I suggest you read this paper by Steve Mann [wearcam.org] which explains exactly how augmented reality can improve your awareness in everyday situations.

      The man is truly a genius and well ahead of our time.
  • one word: fashion (Score:4, Insightful)

    by voisine (153062) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:36PM (#11750417)
    pda's are horribly unfashionable, let alone headgear. You need a display that can be integrated into a pair of shades of your choice, and no antennas sticking up from behind the ears. Alternately perhaps apple could come up with something svelte and stylish that is itself a fashion statement like white ipod ear phones are now.
  • Most consumers don't live and breath computers. If they have to take a laptop out of their briefcase and wait for it to boot or dehibernate, it's no big deal. Geeks may seek borg-style computers, but that's not a big enough market for a commercial device.
  • Simple. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Seumas (6865)
    The technology has not been advanced enough to the point that hardware can be small enough as to avoid making the wearer look like a complete moron. And, even if we had acheived that point, there isn't much use for 'wearable' computers. Exactly what do you need one for? You can't use a regular GPS and/or PDA to do everything you would need to do while mobile?
    • The technology has not been advanced enough to the point that hardware can be small enough as to avoid making the wearer look like a complete moron.
      That didn't stop mobile phones.
  • by xwizbt (513040)
    Might the fact that no-one wears a wearable computer be because no-one needs to? We all carry mobile phones, and are thus available at all times. Some of us have mobiles with calendars, to-do items and so on. We're connected.

    Others use PDAs, which give them computing powers beyond the dreams of those who languish in the nineties. We can now emulate elderly computers on a handheld

    Wearable computers... we carry them in our pockets.
  • by rocjoe71 (545053) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:39PM (#11750457) Homepage
    I can't use wearable computers since my tie keeps getting caught in the CPU fan.
  • by Bin_jammin (684517) <Binjammin@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:40PM (#11750472)
    I guess if you really have to ask why there are no wearable computers, the humor would just be lost anyway.
  • by Wudbaer (48473) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:41PM (#11750488) Homepage
    Where did I leave my frigging whereable ? Maybe I look it up on my wearable.
  • I wear a computer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RzUpAnmsCwrds (262647) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:43PM (#11750505)
    What everyone seems to miss is that we are already wearing computers. 145 million Americans have cellular telephones. Many of them have capabilities that far surpass what could be done with 1996-class desktops, let alone wearables.

    There's no need for the dorky headgear or the wierd chorded keyboards. I'm already wearing a computer. It's the Danger Hiptop2. It has a thumbkeyboard, a display, a connection to the internet, and a number of other features. It can do just about anything that the "wearables" of 1996 could do.

    Wearables don't exist because they don't need to exist. What's wrong with products like the Dell Axim X50v? It has a 624MHz PXA270 ARM processor, 64MB of DRAM, 128MB of flash, a VGA touchscreen, WLAN, Bluetooth, infared, CF and SD expansion, and a lot more.

    It's $425, it runs for 6 hours on batteries, and it absolutely blows away any "wearable" you saw on the Discovery Channel. Oh, and you don't look like a dork for carrying one.
    • That is pretty much it. Do not forget to add the iPod to your list of wearable computers. Most people do not need "enhanced" reality. The Internet and TV already cut us off from our local reality as it is. Think about it. How many of us have friends in other states and countries that we met on-line yet we do not know the people that live next to us?
      We need a wearable computer about as much as we need atomic underware.
      • You know of any underwear that doesn't consist of atoms?

        Unless you meant...

        Oh. I see. Don't even go there.
        • Ok fine if we have to be that way... How about "We need wearable computers about as much as we need radioactive underware."
          • "We need wearable computers about as much as we need radioactive underware."
            Actually, given the number of idiots in the world and the rate at which they are reproducing, a sterility-inducing fashion statement may be just what the species needs.
    • Three words... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ralphclark (11346) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @09:51PM (#11751597) Journal
      Heads-Up Display.

      If you have to stop surfing to cross the road, it's not a proper wearable.
      • exactly! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by interactive_civilian (205158) <mamoru@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @01:51AM (#11752884) Homepage Journal
        Anyone remember that IBM commercial of the businessman sitting on a bench in a plaza feeding the pigeons. At the beginning of the commercial, it looked like he was talking to himself and he gets more and more excited, finally jumping up and down shouting "YES!!" and all of the birds fly off. The idea was that he was watching his stock take off in realtime over the internet on a display mounted on his glasses that projected into his eyes.

        That is what I am waiting for. Something small, unobtrusive, and no less stylish than glasses. It would be really cool if you could have it be a semi-transparent overlay over the real world. It would be even more cool if a system could be implemented to feed you realtime info about what you are looking at.

        But I get the feeling I'll get one of those for free with my Flying Car that I will have won as part of the opening sales promotion of Duke Nukem Forever.

        • and a 4pi steradian display map that has both a sensor to see which way your head is looking and a separate scroll device so that you can rotate any part of the display into view.
          • Wow. I bow to your superior geekitude!
            • All I ever want is more screen. I want to have a zillion docs open all over the desktop and just turn my head to see them.

              I want to eliminate paper-- paper files don't put themselves back in the right place when you close them- they just sit there like a lump on your desk. Why can't they file themselves?

              I'd even be happy with a 4pi display that only worked in my office because it has a big helmet mount for now, but the HUD version on small glasses or a retina projector would be nice in the long run.
      • > If you have to stop surfing to cross the road

        There's a chicken joke somewhere in there, but I can't quite lay my fingers on it...
    • There's no need for the dorky headgear or the wierd chorded keyboards.
      How else can you write Perl code while waiting in line for a movie?
  • by bruciferofbrm (717584) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:58PM (#11750652) Homepage
    Look at: http://www.xybernaut.com

    They have been at it for some time.

    I use dto want to play this game too. Spent a lot of money (of what I could afford) on some gear. Closet thing I had to a mobile processor was an old laptop.

    But at the time, display technology was below perfomance / dollar expections of the everyday man. But persevered I did. Even wrote a contact manager that runs in low resolution with a one handed keyboard.

    In the end I made the same decision most other people will. For the dollar, you can't get where you want to be. The only real people capable of advancing this field are still the R&D gang and the college kids (usually the same group).

    In addition, as mentioned by others, it hard to beat some of eht computing power availble in the PDA form factor (especially in Japan). I have been oon PDAs since the original PALM 128k unit. No need for a bulky monocular display hanging off my head, great run time, and lots of applications for the mobile user. And yet.. nothing truely pervasive as seen in the wearble experimental world.

    • I actually played around with a Xybernaut MA V (P3, ATI graphics) with a 800x600 HMD (apparently it's discontinued now), a 40-key wrist-mount USB keyboard, and a finger trackball (you know - those $20 ones that they sell as presentation mice). It was pretty nice.

      I've considered building a wearable with a VIA EPIA N. The only problem is a screen - battery shouldn't be too hard, considering how widely available DC-DC PSUs are for other VIA form-factors *cough*Mini-ITX*cough*.
    • Even wrote a contact manager that runs in low resolution with a one handed keyboard.
      Must ... resist ... lame ... pr0n ... joke.
  • No marketing (Score:4, Informative)

    by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @08:07PM (#11750731) Homepage Journal
    Seriously, that's the problem. Steve Mann's EyeTap systems are the best wearable argumented reality systems available. Unfortunately he doesn't even consider it necessary to add some sunglass lenses to the front of the EyeTap, making himself look like a cyborg, which is the point really, being that he does "performance art" with it. The irony of it is, the EyeTap systems would look like normal sunglasses if you put sunglass lenses on them.

    Now I have to wonder. Steve Mann isn't interested in commercializing this stuff, but he does provide full specs on how to make them, so which isn't someone commercializing this technology? I'd buy a pair of sunglasses that looked cool and let me google whilst talking to people, wouldn't you? Imagine someone asking you a question and you being able to answer with the power of google at your disposal!

  • the major component that is lacking is a battery with a decent size/performance. just doesn't exist. if a battery in the AA form-factor could power a modern laptop for 6 hours it would open up the door for all kinds of really cool miniaturized hardware.

    to keep things in perspective i saw a documentary about the military working on equipping soldiers with "onboard" computing for realtime use in the field and the prototypes are still 50 lbs.

    • to keep things in perspective i saw a documentary about the military working on equipping soldiers with "onboard" computing for realtime use in the field and the prototypes are still 50 lbs.

      Heck no, they all use Palms. Haven't you ever played Splinter Cell?

      Or maybe it's just the NSA that gets 'em.
  • They have arrived... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ender_Stonebender (60900) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @08:36PM (#11751010) Homepage Journal
    ...you just didn't notice. (Okay, actually, they're not available to the public yet, but a couple of review sites have gotten their hands on working models.)

    Fossil Abacus Wrist PDA [fossil.com]

    Okay, this is probably more the inspiration for asking the question rather than what was being sought, but it's still a computer that you wear.

    --Ender
  • Sure, there are 'bleeding-edge' early adopters of the technology; but that doesn't necessarily mean that your average Joe Q. Shithead is going to need one. Hell, even PDA's are only used by a small percentage of the populous.

    There is going to have to be a catalyst to lead to wearable computing for the masses.

    Even as great of a product as the Newton was, it was premature to market. The same thing is happening with the Wearables. Something needs to happen to make people need/want a wearable. Until that
  • by tverbeek (457094) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @09:38PM (#11751513) Homepage
    A former boss of mine has an excellent question he always asks regarding requests to acquire new technology: "What's the problem for which this is the solution?" The lack of an answer to that question is the answer to the question posed by this thread.
    • A wearable computer, capable of augmented reality, solves a host of problems.

      Done correctly--say, with clear eyeglasses and a thin-color-screen that lets the eye show through--an augmented reality can let someone who's interacting with the public reference information without turning away from the public.

      Imagine a restaurant where all the wait staff have glasses. They carry around a small black to "write" on, and as they look each customer in the eye the seating and location of the order is instantly tak
      • Imagine a restaurant where all the wait staff have glasses. They carry around a small black to "write" on, and as they look each customer in the eye the seating and location of the order is instantly taken down. If the customer assents to the restaurant recording their preferences, the glasses can even flash a customer's name when they walk in with their RFID-restuarant tag.

        Minus the never-going-to-fly-with-customers RFID stuff, it sounds just like the order pads the waiters use at some busy North Beach r
        • How appropriate that a pirate, a thief, a vandal of intellectual property rights such as yourself, would advance such a criminally stupid argument.
        • Alternatively you can train your staff so they can remember everyone's order without writing down a damn thing. If you've never had this kind of service I suggest you go to a high class restraunt sometime, it really is an enjoyable experience.
          • Alternatively you can train your staff so they can remember everyone's order without writing down a damn thing. If you've never had this kind of service I suggest you go to a high class restraunt sometime, it really is an enjoyable experience.

            It's a wasteful extravagance, and in any case merits a higher wage for the employee. Not to mention that mistakes will still be possible.

            In ten years I'll expect that when I sit down at a resturant, the waitstaff will enter my order into the restaurant's system rig
            • Well I'd expect in the next 2 years to be able to go to McDonalds and enter my order on a touch screen and have it brought out to me. Of course, I'd much prefer it if it were cooked by fully autonomous systems and brought out to me by a mobile robot, but I think that's still a while off (being that unskilled labour is EVERYWHERE and costs less than robots ever will).
              • Assume that a system to prepare food can do the task of only one person making minimum wage, and that the administrative overhead is equal.

                The person still gets minimum wage here in America--McDonald's biggest market. A typical McD is open from 6 until 11 -- seventeen hours, every day of the year.

                17 * 365 = 5,110

                Minimum wage is $5.15 an hour nationwide. (Some places are higher, some folk are scammed to work for less, but let's take the $5.15.)

                If we presume that there are no benefits, the machine only
                • The person still gets minimum wage here in America--McDonald's biggest market. A typical McD is open from 6 until 11 -- seventeen hours, every day of the year.

                  Every single McD's I've seen over the last 5 years has paid 2-4 dollars above minimum wage. McD's hasn't been a minimum wage employer for quite some time. Most seem to start ~$2 above, not some.

                  That said, as soemone who has had employees the costs of a person tend to be around 30% of their pay. So someone making 10/hour costs more like 13/hour. Ass
              • Well I'd expect in the next 2 years to be able to go to McDonalds and enter my order on a touch screen and have it brought out to me.

                Arby's was doing that at the local mall a few years ago.
        • Minus the never-going-to-fly-with-customers RFID stuff, it sounds just like the order pads the waiters use at some busy North Beach restaurants. Don't need distracting eyegear popups, it just takes a glance down at the pad. Orders are entered and every table's order is displayed on the pad, by number. Any waiter that can't handle learning the table numbers on their first day is not cut out for the job, and no amount of technology can cover for that lack of ability.

          I dunno, tag each table with a very short
      • Um... you didn't answer the question.

        All you did was list some things that could be done with this technology. You failed to identify a single problem that it solved. For example, what is problematic about waiters maintaining eye contact long enough to listen to the customer and then writing on a pad of paper with a pen? (I've always been comfortable with that, and it's not beyond the ability of a competent waiter.) Unless you're starting with an identified problem, you're not offering a solution; you'

        • For example, what is problematic about waiters maintaining eye contact long enough to listen to the customer and then writing on a pad of paper with a pen?

          The waiter then has to go and put the order in. Which often means double-entry. And if you simply have the "pad of paper" replaced with a PDA, you either have an interruption or increased power consumption.

          It isn't beyond the ability of a competent waiter to manually calculate the total for a bill, either. But electonics still can speed them up.
          • The waiter then has to go and put the order in. Which often means double-entry.

            But that's because there is another computer that isn't needed: the computerized register. If you don't introduce that, then the paper order can go right to the kitchen and then serve as bill and receipt. A diner usually operates in that manner. A little piece of paper that serves as order to waiter, order to kitchen, bill, receipt. Simple, elegant, non-computerized.

            • But that's because there is another computer that isn't needed: the computerized register. If you don't introduce that, then the paper order can go right to the kitchen and then serve as bill and receipt. A diner usually operates in that manner. A little piece of paper that serves as order to waiter, order to kitchen, bill, receipt. Simple, elegant, non-computerized.

              You forgot: cheaper, and often faster. Yes, I've dealt with both.
      • Imagine a restaurant where all the wait staff have glasses. They carry around a small black to "write" on,

        You'd think a pad and pencil would be cheaper than giving out small blacks to your wait staff.
        (it's a joke about a typo, deal with it.)
  • 9/11 (Score:2, Informative)

    by phlegm (146308)
    This is the guy who was detained on 9/11. He sued Air Canada claiming that he was bleeding after having his chest electrodes removed. If they are growing into your skin you might want to clean a little more. Ick
  • Great... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Supernoma (794214)
    This is just what we need, people trying to use a computer as they DRIVE.

    I mean honestly, people can't drive without distractions... and cell phones are causing huge problems, what will a computer do?

    I'm staying off the roads.
    • In car PC's are a reality. But having a monitor in your shades definitely isn't a great idea.
    • I mean honestly, people can't drive without distractions... and cell phones are causing huge problems, what will a computer do?

      Cell phones are computers. You already have to worry about people surfing the web while driving--almost all modern cell phones come with a WAP browser.
  • This is the reason why there are no wearable Heat problems [theregister.co.uk]
  • by krikat (861906)
    Wearables haven't become popular because the people that would possibly use wearables realized that rather than wearing an expensive computer, they can wear armor or a startrek uniform and still look like just as much of a jackass.
  • Why aren't they main stream? My guess would be because there has yet to be a truely pervasive application or reason to have a wearbale computer. Sure surfing the web or playing a game at the bus stop would be need but certainly not practical. Not to mention the wireless infrasctructure is only just now starting to become widespread. A Palm Treo 650 or the like is probably pushing the current practial envelope. Regular people are even afraid of that type of device, much less a wearable desktop with a twiddle
  • It's called a Smartphone with belt clip.
  • www.xybernaut.com/ (Score:2, Insightful)

    by yyttrrre (741310)
    They exist in some capacity. This site sells a few www.xybernaut.com/ [xybernaut.com]. Looks like they even run linux!!
  • i mean, we already have it

    i can put a pda in my pocket

    the only thing now is the screen in the glasses and the input method and all that whacky shit

    which nobody wants

    because PDAs work fine

    AND FUNNILY ENOUGH, JUDGING FROM THE SHARP DECLINE IN SALES, NOBODY WANTS A PDA EITHER! WEARABLE COMPUTING! FUCK YEAH!
  • But if you want wearable computing in 2005, it seems you must build your own system. Why, after all this time and attention, are wearables still not commercially available?

    I'd say you've raised the potential market by about 10%.

    As for myself, I get along very nicely with my PDA and my GSM phone.

  • Why, after all this time and attention, are wearables still not commercially available?

    Because its a straw man. Nobody wants to wear a frickin' computer, man!!!

    Besides that, what the hell do you think this is? [apple.com]

    Honest. Super-duper computer-scientist borks might like to think their pretty little electro-future is something the world 'needs', but its a load of crap.

    Cyborgs are a crappy Consumerican desire!!!
  • I've been practically attached to my PC for almost 20 years now, and some of the various ailments i've developed (aside from seeing scan-lines everywhere) are with my back and neck muscles.

    Wearable computing is not only about walking the streets, looking like something out of cyberpunk. It's also for those of us who'd like to use our wired stations like human beings. I'd like to be able to sit / lie down at my workstation, and not have to strain my wrists/eyes/neck/back/etc. in order to be productive.

    I'd
  • The commercially available products from http://www.xybernaut.com are expensive but they do exist.
  • wearables, not whereables. wearables - 1 entry found for wearables. wearable Pronunciation Key (wâr-bl) adj. 1. Suitable for wear: wearable shoes for the summer. 2. Suitable for easy wear: wearable evening clothes. whereables - No entry found for whereables.
  • looks to me like people are saying:

    1) they don't want it
    2) tech isn't there yet to make it small enough

    as for (1), i'm personally convinced that plenty of people will be using it once they see how convenient it makes things. everyone claims their
    PDA is good enough, but i bet they don't dispense with their home computer and use their PDA full-time like we'll be able to when "full-power" wearables are eventually available. and i bet they don't constantly check the GPS on their PDA. or IM strangers in Times

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