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Wearable PCs 75

z0mbie writes sent us a link to an interesting article regarding Wearable Computers. Full powered machines the size of a Pilot with wireless networking, voice recognition, and an eyepiece. Thats the dream. Currently that dream is still wet though. Maybe Someday.
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Wearable PCs

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    I think it's high time some people went outside and started enjoying life a little bit more.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Really, why do people want to use their own ideas about what is 'good for you' and beat you over the head with it? Think the 'net is a waste of time? Think wearables are for loons? Think video games are for losers? That's fine with me. But why do you feel the need to impose control over other people and tell them what they should and should not be able to do? Let people do what makes them happy without nagging them about it.

    True freedom is a wonderful thing. It's being able to do whatever you want so long as you do not prevent others from doing the same. And you sir, are stepping on the latter provision of freedom. And that sucks, IMO. :(
  • by Anonymous Coward

    first you've got the parallel port dumping data to the printer -> a one way affair; kinda like TV (i.e. "programming unit) broadcast to the masses. then you get two way peripheral control - and you've got videogames and web browsers so you can interactively control your human peripherals. now you see the zombies everyday on the subway - with one-way electric plugs feeding signals into their ears from walkmans. then you beam stuff into their retina with "wearable display". so your human peripherals can be interactively be managed over a wireless TCP/IP connection...get a life! you really aren't living as long as you're on beck and call to your eletro-beeper gadget (oh wait, i just gotta answer my cell-phone...)

    technology - the servant of humanity;
    where's my star-trek communicator badge?

    humanity - the slave of technology.
    now go go gadget borg - THE WEB REQUIRES you to...

    take 'yer pick.
  • I'm rambling a bit here. In the end, all I'm saying is: be nice to the masses. It's the only way you'll win them over to Linux and all the other cool stuff.

    Most of marketing campaigns do not include any demonstration of respect to "masses", and some are openly insulting to them. Microsoft is one of the brightest examples of that kind.

  • Posted by Mike@ABC:

    Usually I wouldn't respond to this, and I mean no disrespect to the Anonymous Coward, but there's an attitude here which has the potential to alienate a lot of people. Yes, Linux and Java and other OSes and languages are great, they're much more flexible, and they're better than Windows. But think about this -- if you lump non-techies together with your disdain for Microsoft, I betcha the masses will get pissed. Nobody likes to be called stupid. The readers and posters here are very smart and very with-it (mostly), but a lot of those masses are also smart and with-it, just in different ways.

    I'm rambling a bit here. In the end, all I'm saying is: be nice to the masses. It's the only way you'll win them over to Linux and all the other cool stuff.
  • I want one, bad, now, uhhhh, now! Seriously, it's getting closer. Nice sunglasses-like wrap-around display, clip-on-the-belt (aka pager) cpu, voice and maybe a pen-based interface, no Windows, fer Gawd's sake! Wireless networking. YummmmmY! Actually, the monocular borg-like eyepiece really would be a nice fashion statement.
  • Life? Isn't that a board game?
  • Thank god that Gate$ doesnt write software anymore, or windows would be totally in Visual Basic...come to think of it WOULD be good cause then the software would suck harder than a singapore whore
  • Can you imagine this.. You're on this hot date (The first in many years for some of you) and in the middle the date you go and check your email.....

    Check email? No problem for me. I just put my Palmpilot with the IR port facing my cell phone and press "fetch mail".

    But what's that "date" thing you mentioned? :)

    Regards, Jochen

  • Forget wearable. I want a machine small enough to implant right into my skull with a 'heads up' display inside my eyeball. Just think, engineers could pack their device with formulas and tables; doctors with medical reference data; programmers with man pages; students with next week's test answers; all quickly searchable. Recording ability would be nice too. You'd be able to show what really happened to cause that fender bender. The unit could recharge via an induction charger built right into your pillow. Data could be downloaded into the unit in the charger too or via optical input (just look at a display and hit 'download'). None of this is to say the device should be able to control its host in any way. Just a way to keep a small useful reference library in your head. Add a 'net connection and keep up with Slashdot live and everywhere!
  • Borg!

    Anyway, this idea scares the living tar out of me! If I ever really had to have such a device implanted though, I want Linus to write the kernel and not Bill. :-)

  • by jd ( 1658 )
    That means there -WILL- be terminals the The Big Room with the Blue Ceiling!
  • Many things are already out there which can be combined to make these things mainstream:

    • Apple Newton MessagePad 2000 (they shouldn't have killed this one).
    • IBM 1-inch hard disk drives.
    • Your choice: small high-res colour touchscreens, or head-mounted displays.
    • Cheap RAM.

    What I would like now is someone to make 'em en masse.


  • Take a look at twiddler at Its slightly on pricey side (150$+), but it does work. It took me around 6 hours of twiddling to get to 15 wpm speed on it. Fairly reasonable. There are few clones of it out there as well, which you can make yourself for around 30$ in parts.

    Check out for a load of information about wearable computers. Also, Steve Mann has a website at with his writings...
  • by apilosov ( 1810 ) <> on Monday March 22, 1999 @09:51AM (#1968727) Homepage
    Few items of note:

    1. ViA had some (battery?) problems with their units and weren't shipping the old version since December. New version had just been shipped to their beta customers. Unfortunately, to get on beta list, you have to promise to use it daily and talk to them daily regarding your experience. I passed up :)

    2. Prices aren't that much more expensive than a PC, at least for someone with few grand of spare cash. ViA 2 is 3200$, including batteries, chargers and liquidimage's M1 HMD.

    3. HMD are getting better. The coolest thing I saw was selling their HMD for 5000$. While it can be too much for a college geek, its not that much for a company or a geek with a good job. The HMD is almost undetectable, it just looks like a pair of eyeglasses (albeit with a fairly thick frame). I'm getting one when I can get my hands on production VIA 2.

    4. It does run linux already. It has a cyrix mediaGX processor, which is supported by latest Xfree. I had a conversation with Steve Case (VP of Engineering at ViA) in which he stated that its already running in the lab, and it is possible to get a beta unit with Linux preloaded. Since you can buy a "bare" ViA, you don't pay MS tax on it...

  • I think you mean "uploading", unless you have strange habits on the loo.
  • Is it just me or does this sound like trouble? Especially since it sounds like most of the wearables mentioned in the article are running Windows (I don't recall hearing about NetMeeting for Linux!).

    I wouldn't exactly call that trouble. Most standard PCs and laptops come with Windows installed on them as well. Dosen't mean you need to KEEP it on there. I'm sure Linux would be ported to them rather quickly.

  • Just imagine how easy it would be for big brother to track you with one of these beasties. Hell, just add a cookie where ever you go. Being able to track which store fronts catch your eye...

    Be carefull what you ask for.

  • So as to implement the borg-like interface, it wpuld require windows 95. I say this only because any machine that is running Win95 on it has been assimilated into the Microsoft Collective, almost never to be relinquished. However, if one was willing to convert a cybernetic race of beings over to Linux, I would probably line up to become Assimilated.
  • "The Via IIs used by military workers have high-speed ''wireless LAN'' connections to local- and wide-area networks... also use Microsoft's NetMeeting videoconferencing software..."

    Is it just me or does this sound like trouble? Especially since it sounds like most of the wearables mentioned in the article are running Windows (I don't recall hearing about NetMeeting for Linux!).

  • They never talk about that stuff in the Sci-Fi novels. Everything always works, and nobody ever turns into a drooling slob because some programmer somewhere wrote if(foo = 1) instead of if(foo == 1).

    I'm all for the neural shunt installed behind my right ear, but I want to make damn sure that the bugs have been worked out first.

    The other thing I wonder about is what all that EMF energy would do to one's innards. Even with wearable computers, does anyone test this sort of thing? I dunno, but sometimes when I'm talking on my little Nokia I feel a distinctly strange sensation on the side of my head that the phone is on. I know that radio wireless is lower energy than microwave wireless, but still.

    I guess I'm caught somewhere between techno-lust and paranoia. Leaning more toward the former these days.

  • Oh sure, if you need to break into an office, cut the owner's arm off. Wonderful.
  • Yikes, don't say wearable computer and wet dream in the same breath... ;)

    Way cool tho.

  • It's inevitable, but it may not be what you're thinking. Just as many people who thought they'd never want a portable computer are finding their palm pilots indispensable, so too, may those who think they'll never want a wearable computer find they are wearing one sometime soon.

    As computers get smaller, seems obvious that they will reach a point where current systems don't need to be any bigger than a pager, if you don't need exhaustive expansion capabilities (and not including i/o devices.) Imagine a pager-size system, with one of those CIA earpieces (for output) and a tiny mike (perhaps combined with a 3d, wireless mouse). Make it the size of an older celphone or walkman, and you can add pager/celphone circuitry directly to the unit.

    I'd buy one...

  • Microsoft Collective... right... because we Linux users aren't zealots... of course not...
    Why the Borg would use Linux:
    1 - The Collective doesn't crash
    2 - It's the ultimate Beowulf cluster
    3 - Females use it too, we just tend not to notice them.
    4 - You ever see a Borg ship reboot to reconfigure something?
    5 - Why would any Linux user go back to Windows?

    As for the whole individuality deal, I can come up with a series of pro-Linux arguments in that direction as well. Stop using everything you read as a chance to bash Billy boy and M$. If the product sucks, it eventually dies, and no amount of marketing will help.
    Instead of whining about Windows, contribute something useful to the Linux community.
  • Thad Starner, Brad Rhodes, and Steve Mann were/are
    some of the key people in the wearable computers
    work at the MIT Media Lab.

    Thad and Steve have graduated and gone on to
    professorships. Brad is still at the Media Lab,
    and is working on various agent-based interfaces
    for wearables and computers in general. Of
    course he runs Linux on his wearable, :) and
    makes the source to one of his projects, the
    Remembrance Agent, freely available. ables/ /
  • I plan to go outside... once I get my wearable!
  • There have actually been quite a few articles about this on Slashdot recently, and a few comments. I remember mentioning the Linux "wearcomps" from U of T a while back.

    Here is a list of relevant slashdot articles, including this one:

    • Wearable PCs by CmdrTaco on Monday March 22, @02:00PM EST

    • New Low-Power Wearable Monitor by CmdrTaco on Thursday March 11, @12:53PM EST

    • Wearable Computers in Canada by CmdrTaco on Sunday January 24, @12:46PM EST

    • More Wearable PC by CmdrTaco on Sunday November 29, @12:04PM EST

    • Wearable Linux Computer by CmdrTaco on Thursday November 12, @09:58AM EST

    • Wearable Computing Central by CmdrTaco on Thursday November 05, @10:45AM EST

    • A Real Wearable? by CmdrTaco on Sunday October 18, @02:34PM EST

    • World's Smallest Web Server by CmdrTaco on Sunday January 24, @05:35PM EST

    • Tiny PPC Motherboards by CmdrTaco on Thursday January 07, @02:34PM EST

    • The PDA Revolution hits InfoWorld by CmdrTaco on Monday December 21, @05:01PM EST

    • IBM enters the fashion world with wearable PC by CmdrTaco on Monday September 14, @08:01PM EST

  • I don't have a citation for the article that you mentioned, but if you look up Professor Kensall Wise in the IEEE Journel of Solid State Circuits, you'll find about ten years worth of research and development in neural implants.

    If you find citations for other groups, btw, please post them. I'm doing a project in a related field, and am having trouble tracking other groups down (there is at least one other group making devices that interface neurons and circuitry in addition to Prof. Wise's, but I don't know who they are).

  • The Twiddler rocks. I've had mine for about a year. For more on wearables, check out the FAQs, etc., at: ables/ []
  • As much as it sounds like a good idea, the whole time I was reading it I was looking to see what they'd do for a keyboard... I can't comment on voice recognition, having never tried it, but it seems to me keyboards are still the way to go.. or maybe it's just that I don't want my typing skill to become useless? ;+)
  • I recall some successful project to implant electronics into humans 1 or 2 years ago. Some researcher implanted a little plug in his arm that had a unique radio-transmitted ID. He walked around a special building and when he walked up to doors, they'd open automatically when they scanned his body and received his ID.

    The premise was that with a unique ID for everyone, they could walk around a building and all the doors would open automatically. If a person didn't have security clearance for a certain area, his ID would reveal that fact to the scanners, and the doors wouln't open.

    After the experiment was over, the guy had the plugs removed from his arm and said he felt kind of "empty" and "disconnected"...

    All of this, just to save a couple calories of taking out your wallet and whipping out a keycard.
  • Hewlett packard have a wearable PC they have promised to bring along to show me. It has a screen that goes on the forearm rather than using the eyepiece as they say the eye pieces available are not good enough yet.

    A horrible thought, being able to work anywhere never being away from your work. Not for me..
  • Dr. Steve Mann who started wearing computers
    in the 1970s at MIT and is now at U of Toronto.

    Check out the Wearable Computer site at:

    Very academic, but full of interesting information
    on wearable computers.
  • Technology and information are super-powerful genies, but we (the sentient ones) aren't compelled to bend to their will. Quite the opposite, as a matter of fact. - yeah, unless your a programmer for m$...
  • Imagine; surfing the web on mass transit. Rebuilding your kernel while "downloading" on the loo. INstead of restarting and making lunch, you restart, and run diagnostics while making lunch.

    Wearable Pc... mmmmmmmmmmm...

    -The Cheese
  • >Unlike the mammoth eyepieces worn by the Borg villains on the Star

    >Trek TV shows, the IBM headset display is relatively unobtrusive.
    >``We're trying to break the geek factor for wearing these in public,''
    >says Budd, who envisions widespread headset use on commercial
    >airliners and commuter trains.

    I can see why they're trying to go for mainstream acceptance, but what about those of us who want to look like Borg? Or like k-rad cyberpunk hax0rZ?

    Someone could make a few bucks building eyepiece displays that look like high-tech, ultra-chromed things that you'd expect to have lasers in them.

    How about displays that look like they're grafted to your head?

  • Now, picture this: a full-powered Windows computer little larger than a Palm device...

    The horror! The horror! :)

    Itsy [] isn't wearable, but it already offers speech recognition, and some enterprising soul already ported Doom to it. Not a commercial product, though.

  • But forget the movie.

    The premise is a little different - the guy isn't wired to the net, but has a chip implanted to stop his epileptic seizures before they start.

    It doesn't quite work out that way...
  • Exactly.

    Some other examples -
    - telephone lineman reviewing a schematic while up on the pole
    - firefighter checking floor plans while clearing a building

    And on more recreational note:
    - checking a map while riding a bike, or
    hiking (especially coupled to a GPS receiver)

    The head-mounted display doesn't have to look geeky (although that look might be a plus to some). With appropriate lenses and fiber optics the imaging electronics could be hidden and the display projected onto the back of a sunglass lens, for example.

  • I recall reading a book about one of the first wearable computers, twenty or so years ago.

    A vest contained the cpu board, power supply, etc. worn under the clothes. Input was via toe switches concealed in the shoes, output was a series of LEDs hidden in the frame of a pair of glasses (visible to the wearer). It was used to count cards in casino blackjack games in Vegas.

    At least until the casino owners caught on.

  • I personally like my computer. But I don't think I would sink that low to carry a computer w/ me... Can you imagine this.. You're on this hot date (The first in many years for some of you) and in the middle the date you go and check your email..... Srike 1, 2 and 3....
  • Give it a little time. Sony manufactures the
    Xybernaut boxes, and owns a big piece of Xybernaut. . . . .
  • To clarify my earlier post:
    - wearable computers have a large market for industrial use, as evidenced by the examples I provided.
    - I am skeptical about consumer use
  • think about it for a second:
    - carry a specification and repair manual in a wearable computer, display through visor (Boeing does this today).
    - wearable data collection devices are widespread in warehouse environments
    - wireless units for field service technicians, complete with repair procedures, notes, etc.

    Wearable computers for consumer use is still in it's infancy, at least until they become embedded in other things to truly be pervasive.
  • Actually, wearable networked computers and mobile
    devices are not that far in the future, at least
    here in Finland / Europe where the cellular phone
    network (GSM) is way ahead of the U.S. Digital GSM
    data traffic is routine, and combining that with
    Bluetooth and WAP gives you all the pieces you
    need. I'd say stuff like this will be on the market beginning of next year (in Europe, at least) - they already had demos of stuff like that at CeBIT last week.

    Since the States still doesn't have two-way SMS, let alone anything more sophisticated, you guys over there might be in for a bit longer wait, sorry :(

  • i'd never have to go offline ??? LOL
  • This doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Just because I have access to a global information infrastructure doesn't mean it's going to control me. All you need to do is NOT buy stuff that coopts your free will. Is there some sort of odd compulsion...MUST answer cell phone? No. If it's not convenient for me to answer it, that's what voice mail is for. I am not, and never will be, at the beck and call of technology. Technology and information are super-powerful genies, but we (the sentient ones) aren't compelled to bend to their will. Quite the opposite, as a matter of fact.
  • You must have missed the "sentient" qualifier. That excludes everybody in Redomond's reality distortion field.

    JOKE! That's humor, people. : )
  • The advertising would drive you insane.
  • Hey...good book that has all this wearable PC stuff in it..
    What Will Be by Michael Dertouzos (spelling) he is some guy from MIT lab for comp sci. Pretty good read, I suggest it!
  • Just buy several different plastic model kits. Chop them up. Glue assorted pieces together into shapes which fit on your head and around the tiny headset. Or for a sleeker look use automotive/plumber's epoxy putty and metal/plastic stock pieces to make a custom shape. Or just buy more tiny headsets and help drive the prices down for the rest of us.
  • Been trying to find the link... maybe someone else can help...

    Appearantly last year at Emory University in Georgia researchers were able to insert a brain implant in to the skulls of several quadrapalegics (no spelling flames, please) that allowed them control over a mouse and keyboard. Although, depending on chemical balances, the device didn't always work, it was useful in the majority of attempts. I will continue to look for it; I first heard it on NPR on the way to work one morning. If anyone else knows what I am talking about and knows the link, please, post it.

    Grandpa Spaz
  • There was a big article in Popular Science about this stuff like 2 years ago. The designs were really out-there. Let me dig out the article and I'll post it.

    How functional could the systems really be? Remember we spend hours and hours of time optimizing and refining our code and our systems.. they are built for functionality.. not fashion :)


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  • Just think.........

    Imagine implanting electrodes onto the surface of the brain.

    This has been done for people with prosthetic limbs to give them control of simple movement with said limbs

    What if all you had to do was get a contact web implanted in your head, then spend some time to learn which thoughts controlled functions on your wearable.

    Combine this with wireless networking and the next thing you know.....BOOM - telepathy.

    Imagine a GeekCon in 10 years, and how it would look to an "off-liner" a room full of people all standing around, no one saying a word.

    Scary or what.....

    PS - Other advantage - you can eat Pizza, Drink Jolt and communicate at the same time

  • The reason for your poor perfomance with your mock up was your choice of aquatic organisms.

    I feel that Pink Salmon would have been more suitable as opposed to the Red Herring that I think that you used.

    Also we are talking about a Neural Interface here, not a Herring Aid.

    Any more kids wanting to waste bandwidth will be similarly replied to in similarly sarcastic tones.

The human mind ordinarily operates at only ten percent of its capacity -- the rest is overhead for the operating system.