Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?

Teens Make a Wearable WebCam 62

boinger writes "Wired is reporting about some high school kid who made a wearable PC with webcam as a school project. The designed was blessed by MIT, and it brodcasts the captured images via wireless LAN which are then published to a web site. It runs Linux, too, but sadly runs Win98 as well." Imagine what this will do for those obnoxious "Worlds Funniest" TV shows that churn my stomach as I dive for the remote.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Teens Make a Wearable WebCam

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward
    You're right -- the article was WAY too "breathless". It's not like the kids split the atom or something . . .

    On the other hand, it does sound like they did a reasonably good job with off-the-shelf parts. Which, although not thrilling, is at least a decent accomplishment on their part.

    Either that, or the article was completely incoherent, and the kids really DID do something nifty. I just don't think so . . .

  • Finally, please, if any of you HAVE run a web cam off a linux box, please, do email. Any other questions, comments, suggestions, whatever, just send 'em my way.

    I use QuickCam [fhttpd.org], and it works through parallel port, however the speed is limited to about 1fps at 320x240 24bpp resolution AND it takes a lot of processor time because of stupid parallel port interface design. Still it should be usable on a box like that.

  • Where did Windows come into the conversation? The internal CPU cache can only cache the first 64MB of RAM. This has nothing to do with Windows or other OSs - 64MB and only 64MB is cached, whether you're running CP/M, DOS, Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, OS/2, or BeOS.
  • Posted by FascDot Killed My Previous Use:

    1) The story implies that these guys INVENTED wearable computers--but all they did was build one (and it sounded pretty big, BTW).

    2) The story fails to mention how much money it took to build this thing.
  • Posted by Fleeno:

    Those crazy teens, what will they come up with next?!
  • Posted by Art Pepper:

    we see if Al Gore would start wearing one of these during his "open source" presidential campaign?
  • I don't understand the part about the computer running both Linux and Win98. I seriously doubt they dual-boot, so does it mean that the whole thing works whether you use Linux or Win98, but you don't need to use both?

    Timur Tabi
    Remove "nospam_" from email address
  • impressed with the depth/details (parts,suppliers etc.) on the website there mike. wrt to the HUD, have u checked out if there's any way u could canabilise mil surplus HUDS?

    i guess lightness and durability of the HUD come with extra bucks..is there any way to grab the image (i couldn't find descriptions of how u capture the optics, private eye?) fm the machine using 'optic fibre' and projecting this on the glasses?

    getting the interface right is the 'spit 'n polish' of the project, getting to this level is an achievement yr average '/.'ers should be applauding!

    http://wearables.www.media.mit.edu/projects/wearab les/lizzy/
  • far from it...i use m$ at work 'cause business pay for it..but my choice of os weapons is u*ix 'cause it's free. i'd use freeBsd for hm use but it's not my choice (not that it's inferior..gotta love that picoBSD)...

    as for running more os's, the more the merrier ,diversity rules ...who knows M$ might go open source fix all their bugs and give their os for free :)

    so take that back you swine!

  • I'll tell you what would be innovative- use something other than x86. Why do we insist on this dinosaur?
  • I talked to Mike - one of the students who did this project - and he wanted to be sure that I knew (and I'm passing it on to everyone else) that they were forced to use Win98 because of lack of drivers in Linux. He said that he plans on phasing out the need for M$ altogether as drivers become available.

    "The Constitution admittedly has a few defects and blemishes, but it still seems a hell of a lot better than the system we have now."

  • I'll preface this by saying that I'm 21 now, but...

    I wholeheartedly agree with BigZaphod on this one. When I was between 16 and 18, I was trying to do things the "adult world" just wasn't ready for me to try yet, like getting a motorcycle endorsement and going to a local college for my senior year studies. This meant that I was out in public during normal school hours, for which I got a lot of hassle from shopkeepers and the local law enforcement. "Hey kid, shouldn't you be in school?"

    I started in my real college at 18, and I still had problems with parental consent forms and curfews. It was only at 19 that things started to settle down so I could go about my business without getting hassled.

    To bring this back on topic, I hope the media exposure of these young men will show society that we aren't just a bunch of dope fiends bent on self destruction. We need more examples of geeks doing their thing, so everybody: GET TO IT. Do something spectacular to show the world you're not worthless.

    Unfortunately, it's too late for me now. I'll be graduating in a couple of months, and I'll be expected to do this sort of thing on a daily basis. Yah, right.
  • The maximum ram available for use in Pentium systems is dependent upon the chipset used by the motherboard. The chipset also determines how much is cacheable, which is really important. Some people used to add more RAM to their systems in hopes of increasing speed, and actually caused them to run slower, since the new RAM wasn't cached.
  • Seems like the nice folks here are being a bit overly critical of your plan to use Linux. I think they felt you were trying to be politically correct by playing to the audience.

    But I would assume practical reasons for using Linux - certainly you don't want to go off rebooting your computer all the time, especially since the whole idea behind the wearable is more cinema verte [sp?] than anything else. So I, for one, hope your adoption of Linux is successful.

    Finally, a lot of people seem to be unfairly criticising you for merely creating a wearable computer. I think th marketing aspects of this - the sale of the idea to the media lab - show real promise. I've certainly never heard of someone wanting to do live broadcasts from high school, as you filter through corridors and what-not. I'm not sure how many people want to see them, but at least it's a creative idea.

    I, for one, hope it will be the first of many.

  • No offense, but I hate it when people are judged by age.

    I think that age discrimination is a double edged sword. While you might have certain limits applied to you, you are also granted liberties that elders (age 21 and up) dont have being legal citizens.

    I'm 19 now and for some reason it seems to make a huge difference in public perception. I look the same, talk the same, etc. But for some reason I am now somehow better being 19 instead of 18.

    I totally agree with you here. Being different ages can have different things expected from you. I'm 16, and being 17 seems infinatley older.

    Sorry. (Again, nothing against you. :-)

    Its cool man. :)

  • As a high schooler my self, having that kind of project happen at my school would be a wonderfult thing. In my tech class, were building remote control cars of our own design, and having a destruction derby, but their project sounds fantastic. Maybe not in professional industry standards, but they're only 18, and doing an excellent job.

  • and this is very typical of WIRED.

    many people that dont know what a wearable is let alone what a webcam is will read it and get the wrong idea. (I know this as my boss who is the equivilant of a salad bar in the IQ arena) I think it was great that they did this. It's the fact that the media makes it sound like they came up with this on their own, while there are alot of people that have been working on wearables, and wearcams for years! Look at how the media makes it sound like IBM invented the wearable, HA! IBM copied the ideas of some very creative people.
  • wearable web-cam.... already done by steve mann a Loooong time ago... at http://www.wearcam.org
    in fact these kids did nothing but assemble hardware and take current ideas. Great for teenagers, but hardly news-worthy. everything they have done has been done by Prof. Mann a long time ago, and is probably his design anyways.

    Gotta love the media...
    "FLASH! 31 year old man builds a PC from component parts and runs a non-microsoft Operating system in his basement!!! along with a networked house he also built a router out of spare outdated parts!!"

    Wow I just invented the computing,networking,and router industries!!!!!

  • Linux will support the correct hardware, it's just what you chose to buy that failed ya. check out steve mann's site, he has everything under linux, and is wireless with a huge range compared to the wireless-lan fodder that is commercially available.

    Cool that you did this, un-cool that the media mis-represented what actually happened.
  • build one, or buy a xybernaut or via.
    be ready to spend gobs of money, you cant get a PII yet, and a typical wearable is a 486 class computer. (Gasp! that means I cant run NT!!! :-)
    It's bleeding edge.... but I like to bleed.
  • No offense, but I hate it when people are judged by age. I'm 19 now and for some reason it seems to make a huge difference in public perception. I look the same, talk the same, etc. But for some reason I am now somehow better being 19 instead of 18.


    Sorry, just had to rant. Age discrimination is one of the worst out there. It limits us, forces us to shut up and sit in the corner, and it destroys our minds when we are most able to learn and innovate.

    Society sucks.

    Sorry. (Again, nothing against you. :-)
  • Is it because it's a wearable computer - in which case, Alan Alda did a Nova show from MIT about this years ago; or is it because a bunch of high-schoolers did it - in which case people don't have enough faith in their teenagers. In either case, why is it news?

    All that's needed is a notebook PC in a backpack, with a wireless LAN card and a PC cam. Hell, gimme $2000 and a CompUSA and I'll walk out of the store with a working one of these 'news-worthy' items.

    Now, if someone were to.. Oh nevermind!
  • I'm running mine with 80MB, so there you go.

    Actually, it's a 32 bit chip, with 32 bit registers, so it can address (grind, grind, grind) 4294967295 bytes - 4 GB.

    The mainboard most likely has a 64MB limit, but that sounds low for a P5 board...

    NT imposes a 2GB limit on address space for the system, and 2GB for an application - but that's a different ball of wax entirely (virch mem issues)
  • The story never used the word "invented". It clearly states that they read about the concept in Wired and then came up with "a variation on MIT's wearable prototype". Then there are five links to other wearable computing sites.

    I think you're reading things into the article that aren't there.
  • Spies are already using them... With some of the new HMD's that Thad Starner and Steve Mann are using you don't even know they're wearing anything...

    Industry uses camera/glasses already to take pics of stuff that they shouldn't. It's no big deal to ad a pc to the system.

    BTW- From the sounds of it... they pretty much just built from the directions over at Steves site. !=big deal
  • Agreed... Some of the Linux guys out there are starting to sound like the NT guys.
  • Hell, he invented it, didn't he?
  • Maximum addressable RAM for a Pentium is 4 gig. Most motherboards don't support that much because they can't handle memory modules large enough to total 4 gig... but the CPU itself will address 4 gig of physical RAM. Windows can only cache the first 64 meg (not sure about other OSs), so that may be what you're thinking of.
  • I got a camera on my machine at work: The Andycam [utexas.edu]
  • Ohh, ohh, where can I get mine?

    Seriously though, this sounds like it could have incredible ramifications, and a lot of great uses. Think of the applications... in the workplace, bodycams could get and process images before sending them to controllers, who could give instructions to the workers on how to do their tasks more effeciently, more successfully (in a factory-type environment that is).

    With more miniaturization, of course, this could be abused, used by spies or governments to track the people, to know what you are doing all the time. HIDE! Big Brother really COULD be watching you at all times.

    Tim Wilde
    Sysadmin, Dynamic DNS Network Services

  • I don't know exactly WHO told you this, but I think it'd be safe to say they were lying or misinformed. If anything, the motherboard limits max RAM more than the CPU, although the Pentium MIGHT have a limit of some sort, this would seem sort of counter productive. I am sure that if there is such a CPU limit, it is much more than 64 MB :)

    Tim Wilde
    Sysadmin, Dynamic DNS Network Services
  • of this week's DOONESBURY comic strip, which
    is talking about a high-school aged girl putting
    on a live webcam show of her daily life.

    Bizarre, but real ...
  • PC/104 based.

    By definition: "Pretty big".


    Speaking of poor journalism:

    When I was at CMU, a pissant snotnosed freshman in an introductory programming class wrote a shell script to endlessly append a file to itself. Two line freeking shell script. (The year was 1981 BTW, oops... just dated myself.)

    Anyway, it filled up the entire file system and caused big trouble (early UNIX, no disk quotas).

    The instructor called the kid into his office, and pointed out to him that "malicious or destructive use of computing resources" was an expelable offense. He let him off with a verbal warning not to do it again.

    The kid does it again the next day.

    He is expelled.

    He runs to a local TV station. The entire news media in Pittsburgh (TV stations and newspaper) spin the story so as to paint the little snot as an unbelievable computer super-genius who developed an amazing hitherto unconcived computer alogrithm and Carnegie-Mellon expelled him because his godlike intellect embarrased its faculty.

    His amazing algorithm?

    Something along the lines of:

    while [ 1 ]
    cat flip >>flop
    cat flop >>flip

    18 years later and the news media can STILL be rather clueless about computers.
  • Just wanted to clarify... lest my previous post sound too mean...

    It's a helluva High School Project.

    I'd have definately given them an "A".

    It's just that Wired DID gush like this was completely unheard of technology. Wired should be a little more cluefull, especially since these guys got their idea from WIRED in the first place!
  • Why is a webcam such a big deal all of a sudden? I couldn't care less how often these guys go to the washroom. The interesting (read innovative) thing about Steve Mann's project is the 'mediation' of what someone percieves to be reality (reality processing?), not the fact that he's got a camera on his head and a computer strapped to his ass.

    His *ideas* will exist even when all the equipment is inside our eyes or our brains, long after the idea of wearable's has become passé.


    PS> I'm not denying the fact that these guys did some good work, just saying that it's not something that should be hyped to death. I also haven't read the article, so I may be completely off base. I'm only going on what it sounds like from what I've read here.
  • you know what? that article didnt even cover the wearable! its not just a stupid digital webcam. wired didnt even give full credit. also. they designed (and built/are building the case). in a while theyre going to put a page with all the stats on it. more later... fromage [slashdot.org]
  • Considering how many adults are brain-dead, it's nice to see a bunch of school kids putting together a cool project like this. Smarter of them to use off the shelf parts than to reinvent the wheel... tho's I guess they could have picked a rather less brick-like computer!
  • Yes, we know this has been done, we've visited Professor Mann's web site many a time. I believe though that Prof. Mann's webcam is a refreshing image, which, while considered, was not what we are going for. We wanted streaming video. Not just a periodically refreshed .jpg. But please, tell me if i am wrong. We've also visited MIT's and The Wearable Computing Homepage, and all their ilk.

    As for the design, it is based loosely around the Lizzy design from MIT.

    And as for the media, we know perfectly well that we in no way invented wearable computing, and have NEVER made claims otherwise. We have always taken the utmost care to give credit exactly where it it due, and in this case, I believe that most of the inspiration would go to the MIT Media Lab group.
    However, having little or no control over the finished, published product, we can never guarantee that exactly what we emphasize is included.

    In defense, let's say that wired approaches you and says, "Hey, we wanna do an article." What do you think is the correct thing to say? It is in no way our fault/responsibility that this is news to the general public. Hell, even if it is the "Awww... isn't that cute. Look honey! These kids built a small computer!" factor, why should that matter? Publicity is publicity, and being a privately funded program, WDHS needs the evidence (read; media mentions, television spots, newspaper articles, awards) it can get that the students are working on "cool", "noteworthy" "educational" projects. This way we say, "Look, see what we've done?" and whammo! We have the money to expand, and create a better program and learning environment for the students.

    questions? comments?
  • Who manufactured your wavelan?
    And where and when did you buy it?

    If i'm not mistaken, I believe a number of manufacturers use the wavelan architecture, including Digital and Lucent Technology.
    However, when we went to order, they told us that there was currently an extreme shortage of cards and we could have ended up waiting anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months for them to become available again.

    Seeing as that did not fit into our timeline, we went with a Proxim Rangelan/2 card and access point.

    As for the wintv board, Aitech makes it correct?
    If i am not mistaken, it is not of the PC/104 form factor, effectively canceling that one out right away.

  • Rats, you've found us out.

    Yup, we sold dope to raise the cash.

    Actually, we got the money from the Dearborn Cable Communications fund, a business venture set up by Mr. Gibb (our instructor) and a partner of his 17 years ago when WDHS first started.
  • A friend and I had a much better way to do this. We were going to make a CatCam, but never got around to it. Buy a pinhole camera and a microwatt tv transmitter, then use a video capture card on your pc.

    Rather cheap, and simple.
  • I know I picked up somewhere that the Pentium 1's max ram is 64mb? Am I wrong? I heard something about this, well maybe atleast in windows the max may be 64, if so, why do they have 120mb ram on a P1? I must be wrong, oh well.
  • It's not even the Pentium that's the problem, AFAIK, it's the chipset... most (all?) Intel Socket 7 chipsets are unable to cache more than 64M. A Pentium in, say, a VIA VP3 board shouldn't have any such problems...

    And yeah... the 286 was limited, too - something like 12M - I forget exactly, and it's not as straightforward to calculate as the [3456]86's 2^32, because of the 286's weird memory segmentation model...
  • IIRC, the internal L1 or external L2 cache design (I forget which) could only handle 64M on the P1. Installing more ram would slow the chip down because it could no longer use the cache.

    I might be wrong. But your supposition that the CPU cannot limit the amount of RAM is wrong. 8088s and 8086s can only address 1M of RAM. That's it, nothing more.
  • I'll tell you what would be innovative- use something other than x86. Why do we insist on this dinosaur?

    Well for one thing, its rather inexpensive, it has a LOT of software for it, hardware for it, and makes the software side of the device easier by not forcing them to code anything themselves.
    Stan "Myconid" Brinkerhoff
  • by msassak ( 33919 ) on Wednesday April 07, 1999 @02:46PM (#1944814)
    Ok, so I am the kid mentioned in the Wired Article.

    Now about those questions.

    Cost; approximately $5800. Yeah, i know, it's steep, and a wearable can be made for much less. But what can i say? Wireless LAN equipment is
    !?#@*ing expensive.

    The amount of RAM was a misquote. It really has 128MB. Yes, windows can only cache the first 64MB, but Linux works beautifully with all the supported hardware.

    This leads me to the OS choice(s).

    It was with a heavy heart, (and not a small number of expletives) that we decided to run Linux and Win98. The original plan was Linux only, but when confronted with what we wanted to do, and the hardware needed to do it, we were forced to run 98 also. Linux just did not have the drivers necessary for all our hardware. Yet.
    But you should all be please to know that bit by bit, as Linux support grows, we will completely phase microsoft out of the picture altogether.

    Finally, please, if any of you HAVE run a web cam off a linux box, please, do email. Any other questions, comments, suggestions, whatever, just send 'em my way.

    Mike Sassak

The goal of Computer Science is to build something that will last at least until we've finished building it.