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Handhelds Portables Hardware Technology

Wearing a Computer at Work 92

Roland Piquepaille writes "The European Union has funded an ambitious project related to wearable technology. The project, named WearIT@work, will end in one year and invested funds are expected to exceed 23 million euros. The goal is to replace traditional interfaces, such as screen, keyboard or computer unit, by speech control or gesture control without modifying the applications. This wearable system is currently being tested in four different fields including aircraft maintenance, emergency response, car production and healthcare."
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Wearing a Computer at Work

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  • by Ekhymosis ( 949557 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @10:41PM (#21541071) Homepage
    I wonder what the health issues might come out of this? Some of the 'wearable' monitors I have read about require a type of constant light flashing directly into the eye at a much closer range than the traditional monitors. I would love to have a very portable computer, but I also value my eyesight, especially since I have slight retinal decay.
    • I think being able to equip yourself like a character from an rpg will trump any health risks. In fact that's how I think they should market this. Optical HUD == +5 Productivity, never mind the increased value for a successful blindness roll, I'd wear one.

      However on a serious note, it seems to me that other than than the point blank screens these appear to be pretty safe. They're are apparently made for use in some pretty electronics hostile environments (the upper atmosphere) which I would assume they ar
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ozmanjusri ( 601766 )
      I would love to have a very portable computer, but I also value my eyesight, especially since I have slight retinal decay.

      In a lot of the applications listed, it wouldn't be relevant.

      Underground mine rescuers already use equipment like BG4s [draeger.com], gas detectors, leaky feeder radios and more. Being able to combine the current half-dozen displays into a single HUD would be a godsend.

      There's nothing like dangling from a belay in pitch darkness with an armfull of gear, and having your SCBA's fault alarm go off,

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by billcopc ( 196330 )
        There's no technical reason why that wouldn't be possible. You just need the individual devices to have a common data port, link those up to a compositing processor and off you go. If the gadgets don't have data ports, then you hem and haw at the manufacturer until they add one.

        There are a lot of "futuristic" things we can do today, people just don't want to pay for them.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ILuvRamen ( 1026668 )
      You can't forget the severe damage to your vocal chords if you have to talk to your computer all day. I'd give the average person about a month before they'd have to have surgery on their vocal chords, especially during winter. That's especially because of the way you have to talk, all loud and slow and clear instead of lazy and low energy and slightly slurred so that a computer can understand you. Studies show that damages your vocal chords waaaay more. Then there's the whole motion based thing. If ty
      • Nothing is more quick and effective as a mouse in my hands.

        I'm not trying to slam you nor am I trolling -- this is a serious question. How often do you have to move your mouse hand back and forth between keyboard and mouse, and do you take that time into account in your evaluation of "quick and effective"?

        I absolutely agree that there are applications for which a mouse can't be beat. I'm know people that use other interface devices say the same about those, for the appropriate app. I can't agree more abo
    • by scottrocket ( 1065416 ) <loudfellow@gmail.com> on Friday November 30, 2007 @11:10PM (#21541245) Journal
      Irrelevant. We are the Borg.
  • We already have devices designed for the mobile workforce, and they are called smart phones and PDAs and they get better every year with corporate research that doesn't cost tax payers anything.

    Why should the EU be funding research for the corporate world?
    • by StCredZero ( 169093 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @11:47PM (#21541429)
      If you need a primer on the implications of wearable computing, read Rainbows End [wikipedia.org] by Vernor Vinge [wikipedia.org] (who is known for popularizing the Singularity concept. [mindstalk.net]

      He's a math & computer science professor, and writes technically savvy sci-fi that wins Hugo awards.

      Just one example: give people the ability to invisibly send and read text messages, and you get something that looks just like Mental Telepathy. And this is just the surface! What if those invisible gestures and heads-up display contact lenses also let you Google something almost as fast and effortlessly as you can say the word? And for you nay-sayers, search existed before Google -- why did Google make things so much better? Research existed before the web & web search, why did the web make things so much better? Because if you cross certain thresholds in speed and accessibility, the quantitative difference becomes qualitative! Once searching for something becomes as easy as saying it, the very concept of *knowing* something changes. (Books already take us part way there. I "know" how to build a compiler. But if I couldn't reach for my copy of the "Dragon Book" I'd be awful lost!)

      • by Rakishi ( 759894 )

        Just one example: give people the ability to invisibly send and read text messages, and you get something that looks just like Mental Telepathy.

        Which won't do anything a blackberry (or high end cell phone) does already except kill you when it goes off while you're driving (and no, you won't remember to turn the thing off every time you're in the car).

        And this is just the surface!

        Well hopefully as seems absurdly pointless so far.

        What if those invisible gestures and heads-up display contact lenses also let you Google something almost as fast and effortlessly as you can say the word?

        Have you ever googled anything? It doesn't matter if I can search as fast as I can say it, it still take me 200 times as long to parse the results as to say the query. If the query is complex it can take much longer, sometimes requiring multiple quer

        • Which won't do anything a blackberry (or high end cell phone) does already except kill you when it goes off while you're driving (and no, you won't remember to turn the thing off every time you're in the car).

          Ah, another one who *thinks* he's clever but posts before thinking ahead one or two steps. It's different for one key reason: they can't see you using it, so you can use it in *any* conversation - This means that you can conspire in ways that a blackberry won't allow you.

          Have you ever googled anything
          • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

            by Rakishi ( 759894 )
            Well since you love name calling and insults I'll take my jab at you. You're a small minded nit wit who thinks that because google is the hot shit right now everything must in turn directly tie to it (or search). It seems almost like you're incapable of differentiating between potential technologies from science fiction and their near worthless current versions. A soyuz capsule is not an ftl city ship, and it won't be for a very long time if ever. You can't cite one example of what this can do now that is a
            • Well since you love name calling and insults I'll take my jab at you.

              Insults? You got me started at: "Well hopefully as seems absurdly pointless so far." I just hate it when people try to paint their lack of imagination and inability to make connections as some sort of stupidity on my part. (see below)

              You're a small minded nit wit who thinks that because google is the hot shit right now everything must in turn directly tie to it

              Uh, no. Google is just a concrete example I can use to talk about a whole c
              • by Rakishi ( 759894 )
                I think the problem is that I'm thinking in the short term while you're thinking in the long term. I find it foolish to depend too much on the later as it's impossible to predict new discoveries (which could have tremendous impact on the future). At the same time some discoveries may NOT happen, after all we still don't have those darn flying cars. Once you add in enough "well if this also existed"s in there anything is possible so the whole excersise is pointless.

                I actually I find it amusing that you weren
            • Why even bother with fact to face conversations? You can conspire before the conversation, after the conversation and have a partner do it during the conversation.

              I'll answer you here rather than your original as I was going to pick up the same point with you. Although I wasn't going to insult you the same way as the other guy who comes off as some sort of troll.

              Although it is a small change from what we have now, it has large social implications (rather than technological ones), which is what Vinge was get

      • I think that's the line where it stops being technology and becomes magic.
      • by m2943 ( 1140797 )
        Research existed before the web & web search, why did the web make things so much better?

        Did it? I've seen less scientific progress in the last decade than in the decades before the web.
        • Research existed before the web & web search, why did the web make things so much better?

          Did it? I've seen less scientific progress in the last decade than in the decades before the web.
          Follow biotechnology much? And the boon to Computer Science / Engineering has been huge, just for a start.
          • by m2943 ( 1140797 )
            Follow biotechnology much? And the boon to Computer Science / Engineering has been huge, just for a start.

            Computer science/engineering in particular have made very little progress over the last decade; most of what is touted as progress now is research results from the 70's and 80's finally being implemented, combined with faster machines. That has had a lot of impact on daily life, but research has stagnated.

            As for biology, there has been an explosion of new data, but little in terms of fundamentally new
            • Computer science/engineering in particular have made very little progress over the last decade; most of what is touted as progress now is research results from the 70's and 80's finally being implemented, combined with faster machines. That has had a lot of impact on daily life, but research has stagnated.

              True, but the way the implementation is going, and the dissemination of technology know-how is what I'm talking about. The ease with which I can cobble-together pieces of software technology is truly amaz
      • Because if you cross certain thresholds in speed and accessibility, the quantitative difference becomes qualitative! Once searching for something becomes as easy as saying it, the very concept of *knowing* something changes. (Books already take us part way there. I "know" how to build a compiler. But if I couldn't reach for my copy of the "Dragon Book" I'd be awful lost!)
        This would be true if what one receives in response to ones query is valid information and not the noise on gets in response to search q
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by Bartab ( 233395 )
      Why should the EU be funding research for the corporate world?

      Somebody somewhere decided that Science Doesn't Happen if a gov't isn't engaged in it. Then they tried to sell that idea to everybody else and used stem cell research to "prove it". They were, unfortunately, very successful.

      A close corollary is the idea that Charity Doesn't Happen if it doesn't come from a gov't. Such an idea is what people use to "prove" that European countries give more than the US in international charity.
    • by markxsd ( 718350 )
      >Why should the EU be funding research for the corporate world?

      Put simply - it shouldn't. The EU isn't capable of administering this kind of project and the money is typically wasted. I was the lead technical architect for a similar EU project that delivered jack shit in the end in spite of my best efforts. About 10-15 million euros spent on that one. The majority of the money spent on "project managers" and "business analysts" who were in fact neither.

      Imagine a _very_ expensive restaurant in Venice with
  • Who can say CANCER?

    it's ironic isn't it, how the MIT girl who did this same thing, sans functionality, was arrested on the terrorist hoax device clause.
    • bah, everything gives you cancer.

      and the MIT girl was arrested because she's a social handycap who can't answer a simple question. honestly what tard doesn't realise that walking into an airport with an unknown object glued to your chest doesn't warrant questions? if she had of just said "Oh this is just some funky thing on my shirt, here see?" she'd had no problems.

  • by hyades1 ( 1149581 ) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Friday November 30, 2007 @10:57PM (#21541165)
    they find some way to keep people using the interface from viewing pr0n. Especially if any of the gesture-driven controls they're contemplating get implemented.
  • by lord_nimula ( 839676 ) on Friday November 30, 2007 @10:58PM (#21541167)
    Can you imagine using Emacs with this?
  • Just a | dream? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by coppro ( 1143801 )
    In my experience, voice recognition is overrated. I'll be impressed when someone develops software that can isolate and identify any single person's voice. Mind you, whoever designs that software will make billions. Imagine the potential uses... *Taps chest twice.* "Computer! Red alert!"
    • by grumling ( 94709 )
      Forget the "computer" part. Just tap and start talking. The communicator will figure out who you are calling and automagically put the call through, just like in TNG.
    • Actually, technically, what you've described actually is voice recognition.

      Speech recognition is the recognition of words and sentences. Voice recognition is the recognition of who's voice it is.
  • ... we have the technology. The 23 Million Euro Man.
  • why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rastoboy29 ( 807168 ) * on Friday November 30, 2007 @11:24PM (#21541327) Homepage
    Why on earth is the EU funding something like this?  Do they really think they'll do a better job sorting this sort of thing out than private industry?
    • Re:why? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by m2943 ( 1140797 ) on Saturday December 01, 2007 @01:07AM (#21541837)
      Why on earth is the EU funding something like this? Do they really think they'll do a better job sorting this sort of thing out than private industry?

      Yes. And US history shows that they are correct: most high tech companies and inventions start out as university research; the private sector merely commercializes it.

      Without lots of government funding, there would be no hightech industry.
      • Yes very true and to add to that and in the U.S an awful lot of this kind of research is funded by the pentagon.
      • Without lots of government funding, there would be no hightech industry.
        I feel a great disturbance in Slashdot, as if millions of libertarian geeks suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.
  • More Piquepaille? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Why can't we have filters for submitters? We have the option to filter posters, why isn't such a simple thing available in this great day and age?
  • US Security (Score:2, Redundant)

    by Dunbal ( 464142 )
    Try to go to an airport in the US wearing this stuff and you will probably be arrested/tasered for being a "terrorist".
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by c6gunner ( 950153 )
      Is it possible for a single article to be posted on here without idiots like you whining about some aspect of US policy?

      Seriously, get a life.
      • by Dunbal ( 464142 )
        No. At least not until you stop invading countries and acting like complete assholes.
    • by Himring ( 646324 )
      Not to mention how much the babes love it. Reminds of this intern wearing his cool tricked-out watch. He couldn't wait to show it to me:

      Intern:"And this button I rigged to pop my trunk. And this one I have fire-up my mp3 player wired to a 500GBHD mounted in the floor. This one turns the ignition."

      Me: "Very cool dude. And you will never show this to any woman whose pants you might remotely want to get into."

      [no pun on "remotely"]

  • by Anonymous Coward
    "A loud clatter of gunk music flooded through the Heart of Gold cabin as Zaphod searched the sub-etha radio wave bands for news of himself. The machine was rather difficult to operate. For years radios had been operated by means of pressing buttons and turning dials; then as the technology became more sophisticated the controls were made touch-sensitive---you merely had to brush the panel with your fingers; now all you had to do was wave your hands in the general direction of the components and hope. It
  • since wearing technology to an airport has been demonstrated to be a bad idea. [slashdot.org]
    • This is for aircraft maintenance not airport maintenance. The difference being that you are working on plane either on a ramp or in the hangar and don't particularly want to carry the entire maintenance handbook library around with you. Note that getting specialised tools through is less of an issue when you use the airport's 'backdoors' for staff as long as you have id to go airside. As a passenger, I would admit that it is another issue.
      • Wearable computing has been around for a long time and remember airplane mechanics being mentioned 7-8 years ago as being one of the first applications for this technology, but within 5-10 years this will be as ubiquitous as the bluetooth ear bud is today. I used to use a PC104 for these types of things, but now carry my Linux N770 around in my pocket and use it for the majority of web surfing that I do.

        Sure we'll have a bunch of dead people in airports for a few years, but it is a small price for the

  • ...are filing suit as we speak.

    Who did buy them anyways? Comcast? it's a hard name to google.
  • Do they realize the current state of speech recognition? Once pocket computers (on-host or via low-latency WiMAX'ish connection) can do speaker-independent natural language processing, a bit of machine learning (support vector machines?), and some grammar-free event-driven verb-object controls, then we will have a real interface. EyeTap.org is an interesting concept though.
  • My, what a big Hard Drive you have? What size is it?
  • 23 million euros? That's like what, $100M? Research in third-world countries is hot these days - send it off to the old U.S. of A. and get more bang for your buck, er, euro.
  • by sootman ( 158191 ) on Saturday December 01, 2007 @01:18AM (#21541885) Homepage Journal
    Why does someone need to investigate this every few years? There's enough noise in the average cubefarm (where walls don't reach the ceiling)--do we really want to have everyone start talking to their computers too? And touchscreens, gestures, etc.--sure, RSI is bad, but keyboards and mice are flat, you can rest your arms a lot, and they work with more or less natural motions. (It's not a coincidence that a computer keyboard is like a piano keyboard but in two dimensions--you hit different rows by curling and uncurling your fingers.)

    I used to have a touchscreen monitor and it was fun to touch the screen to scroll and 'click' on web links by literally touching them but holding your arms out in front of you for any period of time is not easy. I had a tablet PC and holding it, even casually while walking around doing inventory with it and a barcode scanner, was a huge PITA. (Ha--"A" could stand for "arm" in this case.) Looking at the tablet-holding guy brought back all the bad memories: all the fun of walking around with a clipboard, but it's five pounds or so instead of a few ounces. Yeah. Super. Sign me up.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by hiben ( 1065024 )
      I work for one of the partners in the wearIT@work-project (not on the project but close) and can tell you that this is not about augmenting cubefarms.
      If you take a closer look at the project goals you'll see that there are areas of work where computers (Desktop, PDA, Smartphone,etc.) are more hindering than helpful in their current form because you need your hands to work.
      When your work consists of typing at the keyboard and pushing mice then there is no need to wear a computer. If you need your hands for o
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by couchslug ( 175151 )
      "Why does someone need to investigate this every few years?"

      To inflict awkward equipment on innoncent users?

      A major drawback of wearable computing is interference with manual tasks along with damage to the wearable equipment.

      The aircraft maintenance world (one of their target groups) is under great pressure to have portable data access and easy-to-use test equipment. Networked maintainers can produce the data management want much quicker if they do it on the spot.

      A rugged notebook (REALLY rugged) works well
  • I have been wanting a wearable computer ever since I read about the gargoyles in Snow Crash. Though, for some reason I doubt this will be as cool :(
  • Telemaintenance (I think) prior to ~1995 was systems-sensors reporting status of equipment at remote locations.
    Telemaintenance (I think) post ~1996 becomes the wearable wireless computer diagnostic tool-set for telemaintence.

    http://www.media.mit.edu/ [mit.edu]
    http://www.media.mit.edu/wearables/mithril/ [mit.edu]
    http://www.cacr.caltech.edu/ [caltech.edu]
    http://e-science.caltech.edu/ [caltech.edu]

    I am an old guy ... I remember .... You can Yahoo/Google "Telemaintenance YYYY" to confirm/learn.

    In ~1996 (I think, I remember) the telemaintenance acronym APES [
  • The goal is to replace traditional interfaces [...] by speech control or gesture control without modifying the applications.

    If you can administrate your company's infrastructure by performing Tecktonik [youtube.com] dance moves then count me in!

  • vaporwear? :)

    seriously though, this might work for office apps or web browsing or whatnot, but until neural interfaces surface, I can't see anything replacing the keyboard for programming or command-line interface tasks.
  • If they have money like this to throw around, then I don't see why Britain should have to give back our rebate. Still, better spending the money on this, than subsidising French farmers to go on strike.

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