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Wearables From IBM Japan 175

Justin Time sent us linkage to another device that could put us one step closer to gargoyle land. The screen is monocle that displays a 10 inch screen. Runs Win98 (ick) and has 3 hours of battery life. Definitely looks like it has some potential.
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Wearables From IBM Japan

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  • Something y2k compliant!?

    As if people will actually be wearing these in the next month!
  • Great minds think alike, this looks more like what I saw in the ad,
  • I know that most of the wearable computers I've seen are in the preliminary stage. But do they really have to be butt ugly and bulky?

    I mean they have to start making these things WEARABLE. That doesn't mean take a small laptop and and fasten it to your belt buckle. I mean make it sleeker, and make it look better. (This does not mean copying the new look of the Mac. Whoever designed that color scheme should be shot) Drop the grayish color and make that monocle smaller! I mean the greatest thing that happened to portable headphones was the earphone.

    I think that is what will make wearable computers truly useful. Don't make the wearable computer do everything a computer does. Make it simple. Think Palm.

  • my ideal portable computer would be a mix between the wearable concept and a laptop.. I would love to have a nice headset, with a semi-translucent display.. a nice little box that had the processor, memory, hard drive, and video card (Sound card would be cool cuz then i could have a pair of light headphones on as well).. and then a cell modem. I would want just a wireless infared keyboard.. something really small, and portable. I wear JNCOs a lot, the main unit would fit in a front pocket. and the keyboard could have a reall small case with a strap.. the total unit would be three pieces. (main unit, headset, and keyboard).. I do everything with a keyboard.. and this set up would work great with any operating system, be smaller, and even more portable than laptops. ideas? -Scott
  • I work with wearables pioneer Thad Starner [] at Georgia Tech []'s Contextual Computing Group []. Thad has been wearing his wearable computer for four or five years, and he uses it almost literally all the time. Here [] is a section of his PHD thesis on wearable computing (unfortunately in raw latex, but readable) detailing some of the many ways he uses his wearable. There are quite a few other interesting papers on the page [] from the class on Ubiquitous and Mobile computing he taught last spring. From my experience with Thad and the CCG, I've seen several issues that will influence widespread use of wearable computers:
    • Power Consumption

    • This is one of the areas that a lot of progress has been made in. IBM's wearable gets three hours of battery life. Thad's wearable gets fifteen. Know what else? He never has his hard drives spin down or his display turn off. He accomplishes this amazing feat by using extremely low power hardware; his wearable is composed of PC-104 boards. You can find more information about the hardware at MIT's Wearable Computing Project [].

    • Display

    • The biggest obstacle to widespread acceptance of wearable computers, in my opinion, is the display. They are, at the moment, extrememly expensive. Quite a bit of technical progress has been made, however. Kopin [] makes some tiny displays (unfortunately no wearable designs shown on their page), but the ones we use most in the CCG are the ones made by MicroOptical []. This page has a photo of the clip-on glasses display prototype; we've got non-prototype models in use, and let me tell you, they are sweet. They are extremely lightweight, slim, and space-age looking. Of course, they're also about $5000 apiece, but that's why we have grants. =)

    • Input

    • Input is a bit of a problem. Nobody's developed an intuitive, easy to use input device. The Twiddler [] is the one most used by wearables researchers at the moment. It's a chording, one-handed keyboard with 12 keys (three rows of four) on the front for the fingers, and five keys for the thumb. It acts as both keyboard and mouse, as it has tilt sensors that let you control the pointer. The Twiddler is neat, and very useful, but it's about as hard to learn as touch-typing. MIT's wearables [] pages have some info on other input devices buried within them.

    • Interface

    • This is another potential obstacle to widespread use of wearable computers. Thad runs Linux (Slackware, I belive) on his wearable, and his interface to everything is: XEmacs! Yes, XEmacs, heavily modified to do everything he needs it to. One of the most revolutionary applications it uses is the Remberance Agent [] (PDF). This watches the files on your drive and what you're typing, and suggests a list of related files every 10 seconds or so. In this way, you can see things that might be related to what you're doing currently. For instance, if I'm typing up an article (such as this one), and I talk about Brad Rhodes [], the Remberance Agent might display a filename such as "rhodes-RA.pdf", reminding me that he was the one who wrote the Remberance Agent. Or, if I'd met him at ISWC [] and put his name in "ISWC99-people.txt", that could come up and remind me as well.

    • Size

    • Size is one of the least concerning of any of these issues. Technology will progress, and things will get smaller. Eventually, we can expect to have powerful computers that fit in our pockets, or on our wrists (check here [] for a wrist-sized palm pilot). Size is currently a consideration, but it's the least of them.
  • Easy, I've seen touch screen systems that work like this...

    Have a graphical 'keyboard' with 'keys' that you click on (or touch) to input text! It's slow but it works.

    But I don't know if you could do key combinations like Ctrl+Alt+Del which is so often needed in Windows...
  • Perhaps we could make it look even funnier and try to extend the battery life of these devices... could you imagine a crowd of people with solar panel caps(sort of like those ones you are given for graduation ceremonies) all of whom have a true monocle(you know the one old rich men wear) wired to a computer. That would be cool... albeit scary, but cool.
  • >>I'm worried about this. Three buttons, in all permutations can only create 6 actions, which is just enough for a 2-buttoned mouse.

    I count 7

    Where x is when a key is pressed and 0 is when a key remains unpressed.

  • The hardware is stored in a 380 gram box, which is controlled by three buttons. It has a Pentium processor, 64 megabytes of memory and runs Windows 98.

    Let me guess what the 3 buttons are.
    Control, Alt and Delete?

  • I use my PalmPilot without a keyboard all the time, and it works great.
    Granted, it's a PDA, but the basic theory is the same...
  • Like another reply stated, wearables have been around for a while here in the US. A couple of guys at MIT media lab were doing projects. Wired had an article a few months back...they described a very interesting "augmented reality". Some of the applications of wearables discussed (for personal use): Eyewear that recognizes faces and pulls up personal data on the person you are looking at, viewed through your flashy lenses Standard web surf/email stuff, also viewed through eyepeices In the work place, the applications are far more high tech and useful. The article described airplane manufacturers, mainly the guys who do the wiring, being able to use a wearable to follow a wiring plan. The plan would be projected onto an eyepiece similar to the one the woman in the photo was wearing. With it wirers could do the job by superimposing the plan onto their work and simply following the lines. Neat stuff. In all, wearables are dorky and bulky for personal use. What the hell are you going to use it for? If you do find a good use, is it worth walking around looking like a lost trekkie?
  • Umm... not quite. Think about it. SETI is already a distributed processing situation. How would getting people at a ball-game help that out. There are at least as many computers working on SETI right now as there are at an average baseball game, so I don't see how having those people in proximity would help at all.


    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • Two points I'd like to make - the input device for this is not the most optimal design. If you're going to put an eyepiece on, you should use eye tracking technology for the mouse cursor like they have in some new camcorders now. Combining this with the 3-button input device they have, you can free up one button to dedicate to keyboard input. How? You can either use a morse-code system (ick!) or you could use something ala the palm pilot. Use the thumb button as a toggle to bring up a visual keyboard, and "click" away by looking at the letter and clicking what you want. The 2nd mouse button in this mode could be backspace.

    Anyway, eyestrain is obviously an issue here, so making the material semi-transparent with a variable "depth" would be uber-cool, as it would allow for (limited) 3d visualization as well as other interesting features. It would also aleviate the eyestrain problem.

  • I saw an ad on TV for a wearable computer (like this, except that the little screen thing was smaller and closer to the eye) that was (supposedly) powered by voice recognition.

    It was from IBM, too.

    (Or was I just hallucinating?)
  • >I mean, especially since it runs Win98, it means you won't have enough time to install the darn thing... That's a little off the wall. With any machine, I can format and install Win98 in about 1 hour (depending naturally on how big the hard drive is and how long the format takes).

    Those who talk do not know.
    Those who know do not talk.
    Keep your mouth closed.
  • Hear hear! That's just one of the reasons these things shouldn't use voice recognition. Can you imagine hundreds of people shouting commands into the pickup mikes on their wearcomps all the time?


    What a neverending cacophonous din!
  • I'm a member of the Cyborg Group (yes, that's actually what it's called :) at the University of Toronto, working for Prof. Steve Mann. As a member of that group, I work with and develope software for the latest wearable computing equipment all the time. One of the devices we have is the Xybernaught, which is a lean mean PII 233 with a couple gigs of HD space and a hundred or so megs of ram, all squished into a package about 5" long, 3" wide, and 2" deep. When we received these machines, they came preinstalled with Win98. We do all of our development using linux for numerous reasons, almost all of which have to do with the fact that windows IS a cumbersome OS for use on such platforms. The first test we ran was a power consumption comparison. When two identical (hardware wise) Xybernaughts were powered up together, one running Debian Linux, the other running the brand new, preinstalled version of windows, the windows machine sucked the battery dry much faster than the debian machine.
  • Interfaces that fit with the available peripherals and peripherals that match the operating environment are important.

    For a wearable computer, voice input and output can be quite valuable, though people will look at you funny for mumbling like a gargoyle. (Single-speaker voice recognition has been getting much better, very large vocabularies are available, and easily-portable disk drives for storing the necessary data are getting practical.)

    The Data Glove that VR people were using for a while may be a good input technology, if the prices can be low enough - it's possible to do gestures and chords without needing to haul a keyboard around. Some combination of gestures and menus together probably makes the most sense for a non-vocal interface.

    Communication is critical for wearables, just as it is for desktops. Some low-speed wide-area communication would be necessary for many uses, e.g. a few kbps for email, voice, and access to the user's other databases. For some uses, higher-speed mobile comms are needed, but in general, it's convenient to have ~1-10Mbps of radio or infrared for transfer to the main network when you're stationary (as opposed to jacking in to a LAN), and it's also valuable to have short-range communication with other users, though low-speed connections are enough for many transactions (e.g. paying for purchases, or stores telling you what's on sale as you walk by, or computers and other hardware providing operator input.)

    Physical location is another valuable input, whether it's GPS or something cell-phone based or the kinds of infrared handshakes that some of the Smart Badge projects have used inside buildings. The more precise the location, the more applications are possible, and the more concerns for security are necessary.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Wearable computers like this are truly cool to look at, but they've been out for many years and I can't say I've ever heard of any really successful weraable computers. Perhaps they're too expensive for people to buy, too clumsy, or simply too strange for people to tolerate. What I'd like to know is if anyone has personal experience with one of these wearable computers in the workforce? I'd like to know how they're being used now...
  • The above was obviously posted by Hemos. Look at "pleasently". I rest my case. He must be getting a smaller cut of the upcoming Andover IPO shares than he wanted... ;-)

    Morning gray ignites a twisted mass of foreign shapes and sounds
  • by Anonymous Coward
    How does one use a computer without a keyboard? Clicking icons can only get you so far. -
  • ...cyberlink!

    Check out []. No need to learn how to use funky keyboard or scare bystanders with voice commands. Just think:
    "rm -rf /".

  • ...if this becomes the next "cell-phone?"
    How many a-holes will be checking their email from in the cars, or sitting in restaurants with these things hooked up.
    How irritating would hearing "You've got mail?" be in a public place?
  • by dingbat_hp ( 98241 ) on Tuesday November 30, 1999 @01:38AM (#1495747) Homepage

    Someone just needs to develop the killer app for it

    Killer app ? Not sure about that, but this [] is amusing. It's a new slant on putting the personal touch into eCommerce; get a few gargoyles on rollerblades and have them skate around a Paris department store checking out the merchandise for you.

    We also have a wearable project here at HP Labs. It's called the predictable, but still cringe-making "BlaserJet".

  • That is _primitive_. Try []. There you get to see a really nice HUD.
    And if you like wearables, the place to go has to be /projects/wearables/ [] - the MIT
    wearables page. It's full of nutritious wearables information.

  • by Shimmer ( 3036 )
    Is it really necessary to say "ick" (or something similar) every time a MS product is mentioned? I think most of the folks visiting Slashdot know enough about software to have our own opinions of, say, Win98. Hopefully, most of us can also see both the bad and the good in such products, and don't need CmdrTaco coaching us.

    Bottom line: It's juvenile, and it makes Slashdot look bad.

    -- Brian
  • That's a little off the wall.

    It was more than off the wall, it was humour. Darn, I need a few crates of smileys if I want to make it on Slashdot...

    "The wages of sin is death but so is the salary of virtue, and at least the evil get to go home early on Fridays."

  • Linux could be ported to anything, so it doesn't say much about compatibility to say that Linux runs on a new machine.

    What they're saying is that this is a PC, not some totally oddball proprietary thing, so you can run PC-standard software on it.
  • A monocular display like the one in the story is used by keeping both eyes open. The effect is like having a transparent monitor floating in front of you. You don't get headaches, and you don't have to worry about a laser being beamed directly at you retina (something tells me that no matter how safe such a system would be, you would have a hard time getting consumers to buy into it).
  • The current bottleneck in all the mobile/wearable devices is battery power. Batteries are too heavy and last too short a time. The superslim notebooks -- ones that you can actually carry around -- survive for 2-3 hours at most without an electric outlet. A variety of PDAs can go through the day without recharging, but they all lack decent keyboards and tend to be quite limited in what they do.

    Basically, for wearable computers to take off, batteries have to become much lighter.

  • How about we have little sensors implanted into the back of our teeth, and we could type with our tongues? Of course eating anything would wreak havoc on the computer, what happened if we accidently chewed a rm -rf /* while logged in as root?
  • Don't forget the all-important 8th permutation:

    • 000

    With two states per button, there are 2^3 permutations.

    (moderation is masturbation)

  • Running win98 is really a advertisement bit to ensure the raw power of the hardware. "It's a real computer, not a TI calculator with gaggle." People pay a lot more respect to my libretto when they are told it can run win98 "like a real computer."

    Regarding the open source comment, people can write open source driver as fast as you figure out how to write properitary driver for win98. As far as IBM release the spec, which I expect they do. However the odd screen resolution will limit a lot of app. I wonder if it can run lynx. The one thing so bad about win98 is the hideous sleep/resume time.

  • At least you attempted to make a point, rather than just throw mud around.

    So please do tell me how Win98 is "cumbersome" for such a device. And in comparison to what? Would you prefer a lean, mean CLI for this keyboardless system?

    -- Brian
  • ok i know this is annoying, but can linux with a gui be loaded onto this? I would like it, if they would offer perhaps a multi-microdrive package, so i could load linux on it, or some data, ms98 with a 350meg hd leaves about 100 megs to spare.

    matisse:~$ cat .sig
  • Since the mini-monitor only covers one eye, how can it have the effect of seeing a monitor floating in front of you? You should be seeing a completely different image out of each eye, just as you do with a camcorder.

    I think consumers wouldn't have too much trouble accepting low-power lasers beamed into their eyes once they realized that it felt fine and doctors gave it a stamp of approval. We bought into the concept of contact lenses quickly enough. Besides, we all sit in front of big electron guns all day (TV's and monitors) and nobody minds that.

  • Remember Shimmer, this is Linuxdot, news for Linux users, nobody else matters. In order to achieve our bright future where Linux users stomp over the broken bodies of stupid Microsoft product using idiots we must blah blah and that is why the editorial staff needs to form our opinions for us. Of course I will be given a "troll" rating for this post.

    Anyway, now that this is out of the is rather odd that they'd use 98 for such a device, I would've thought Windows CE would've been the more efficient choice. After all wouldn't 98 take up a horrendous amount of space? (Just speculating here since most handhelds run palmos or win ce)
  • least not for a long time. They will be useful, but their application is going to be confined to specialized fields to start. For now, these are not going to be intruding into the Gameboy and Palm Pilot realm.

    Where will they be used? howabout
    1. Workers in labs, or those around hazardous materials who need a HUD. What about those workes in Japan who created that criticality event by putting too much fissionable material in solution? Keep the important numbers right in front of you all the time.

    2. Construction Workers a/o archtiects. Guys working on mega projects who can have an archtitectural overlay of the building plan super-imposed over where they are working right at the moment. Keep those mega-projects on schedule.

    3. The obvious medical / dental applications for doctors and surgeons.

    As for business applications, there are only 2 places where I can see this taking off soon:

    4. Wall Street, where having one of these things with a ticker runnign constantly might provide some use,

    5. Agents, (think Jerry McQwire [sic], where you are juggling phones and contracts at the same time.

    ( by the same token, I could see having assitants on the sidelines at Football games having their playbooks on an eyepiece too. The NFL seems to like their gadgets...)

    Anyways, still doubtful this will be aimed at consumers anytime soon, though it will likely be used and oding some important work.

  • Yeah, but only Cardassians and Vorta could use them for any length of time. =)


  • Sure. You could probably extend battery life with a generator on the unit. But you probably can't make more power then you are drawing, so the power available is still finite even if you're walking.

    Batteries aren't bad right now. I just bought a 3200 mAH 3.2V battery for my Nokia cell phone for $50 on EBay. With a power efficient CPU you could get a ton of life out of that battery. And it's Li-Ion so no memory effect, and really light. Think StrongARM here, 133 Mhz, draws 230 mW at full speed. That's a puny 73 mA. With the battery above, that's 43835.6 HOURS you could run the CPU. In sleep mode Intel says it draws ~50 uA. With a little power managment we could get a lot of life out of this. Of course, that's not very usefull, a CPU all by itself. ;) But it should give you the general idea. And if you could get 12-24 hours of full-speed opperation out of the entire system you've got something very usefull. RAM and ROM don't use a lot of power, so the storage and the I/O are the things to look out for. I know the 340MB IBM Microdrive is battery friendly....

    Food for thought, just drop the requirement for Win9x and you could take this idea a long ways. I don't know what Pentium CPUs are using for power of late, so if they can come close to the SA for power draw maybe it's worth it to use a standard x86 CPU...
  • The potential applications for this kind of technology are not really in the domain of the business user. A much more likely scenario is that they could be used in an industrial situation to present technical information to the employees as they work. I remember reading a while ago that British Aerospace (or maybe one of the American Aerospace companies) are using a similar system to help their workers fit out the wiring looms in passenger jets. As you can imagine, these are quite complicated, so a wearable machine gives the worker constant access to the diagrams, and this increases productivity.

    An advantage of using speech reco in these circumstances as that you could build a small vovabulary system, since full dictation is not required, and that would then be very accurate.

    with reference to the lip-reading idea, video to vector mapping would impose a huge overhead, since a video channel is much wider than an audio channel, and the software that does video analysis is not that good. Secondly, lip-readers rely a lot on non-lip cues, and context. The context could be added using an n-gram language model like speech reco systems. Anyhow, as I mentioned, These types of systems will only be used in special circumstances, where privacy is not necessary.

  • CLI = Command Line Interface

    -- Brian
  • I didn't know the resolution was only 320x240. Where does it say that?

    -- Brian
  • take a look at the cyberlink at If that could be integrated with the wearable, you could have a 3D interface - no need for a keyboard, you have a software 'widget' that displays a virtual keyboard, and you think the cursor to the characters you need. Also, if good head position tracking is available, you could have a transparent version of the visor, that could overlay information on to the environment around you ( exact position relative to the data on your environment could be done with gps and some form of inertial tracking - calculating how fast you are moving in what direction from a known point of reference, which could be updated when you are not moving by multiple checks and averages against gps data). I think a situation like an engineer being able to look at a complex circuit or mechanism, and have an overlay of things such as known points of failure on a circuit, or metal fatigue data on a mechanism would be a pretty killer app for this. Also, attach a camera to it, and whenever you meet someone, it could compare the persons image to a history of contacts, identify the individual and display details as an overlay to what you see. A definite case of 'enhanced reality'. Klik Don't fear the future. Build It.
  • Well, you have to consider what you really want it for. Conveniently, if what you really want is a palmtop, there's an easy option open to you: buy a palmtop.

    Xybernaut [], the manufacturer of the $10,000 wearable system from the above Hammacher-Schlemer(sp?) ad, isn't really trying to sell to consumers; their target is big industrial clients. If you're wearing something for your job, who cares what it looks like as long as it gets the job done? And it does. They focus on the "hands-free computing" aspect-- the computer is designed so you can use it no matter where you are without touching it--so they really want speech recognition, which means big processing power, which means Palms are out. But if you're lying upside down under a tank with a bolt in one hand and a wrench in the other you can say "where does this part go?" and it'll show you the schematic-- very handy.

    Not so great for a day at the mall, though. The "Wearable Computing" research community tends to focus on the "ubiquitous computing" aspect-- you have a computer with you running all the time wherever you go-- for which palmtops have really captured the consumer market niche even if you have to strech the word "wearable" to include stuffing it in a shirt pocket. The I/O isn't as seamless as an MIT Lizzy or Xybernaut MA IV-- it takes 2 hands to write/type input into a palm computer and the output isn't spoken to you or held continuously in your visual field-- but they *do* fit in a shirt pocket and they're easy on the battery power and software to do all sorts of nifty stuff is readily available.

    So far, nobody's really gone after the consumer wearable market in a big way, that I know of. And when they do, the killer app will probably be some sort of "Augmented Reality" toy or tool. Something that genuinely needs all that processing power and the visually intrusive head-mounted display and so on. There are less dorky-looking displays-- I'm still waiting for MicroOptical Corp [] to release their almost-invisible eyeglass displays to the general market-- but you still have to shell out the bucks for them and that puts a limit on how many people will.

    So, I don't think it's just the dorky look or cumbersome heft that's keeping wearable computers off the fashion pages. Some people will put up with anything, as long as it's worth it. But for most people it isn't really worth it-- yet.

    For a more pro-wearable view, and some good links, check out Steve Mann []'s take on the subject-- a prolific wearable pioneer.

  • That is _primitive_. Try There you get to see a really nice HUD.

    Actually it's the very same technology that MicroOptical uses in their displays. In this case, you're looking at the non-translucent prototype that has been encased in hard plastic for durability. IBM also has a translucent model. Look for the 800x600 color display sometime early next year.

  • Wearable computers have been out for a while, in various forms

    Sure wish I could find one.. ;-P

    Someone just needs to develop the killer app for it, something that would give people a reason to actually want to use one on a constant basis.

    I'd say first, someone has to SELL an affordable one. The *only* versions I've seen for sale cost upwards of 5,000$ a unit..

  • The headset is way too damned clunky... What about the ibm thingy a few months ago that had that tiny slit like display? It was small and not so clunky. The point of a wearable computer is to have a computer you treat like your discman/minidisc player just shove it in your pocket and put it on when you need it... therefore it has to be small and fast to use/put on.
  • "Runs Win98 (ick)"

    The question was posed earlier on the message boards here as to whether or not Win98 is the OS of the future. I do not think this is the case. I would rather propose that the reason this wearable computer runs win98 is this: Obviously there is limited input with any kind of portable/wearable computing systems. The best input to use would be voice recognition (although the earlier story about thought activated computing [] would be a solution in the [near?] future). At current, such software exists only for Win9x/NT based systems. So /. folks, don't bash the d00dz at IBM for using Win98 at the platform for their wearable prototypes, instead lobby the developers of ViaVoice (also an IBM product) and Dragon NaturallySpeaking to make *nix/BeOS/Other based speech recognition products.


    Child: Mommy, where do .sig files go when they die?
    Mother: HELL! Straight to hell!
    I've never been the same since.

  • There were many many attempts at handheld computers until Palm Computing found the right formula. I think wearables will be the same way. Many experiments have been tried, and many more will be tried until somebody comes up with the right trade-off between features and weight/cost/battery life/ease of use. That person will then make lots of money.
    As with handhelds, the successful wearable computer isn't likely to be a desktop workalike.
  • That commercial was the first thing I thought of when I saw the picture. The computer in the commercial has two major features that will probably need to happen before anyone can make money selling wearable computers. First, the commercial computer is voice controlled. Even simple commands like the ones you see him doing in the commercial are better than giving up a hand to control a ball mouse. Second, people will probably want a see through display. Binocluar vision keeps us from walking into large stationary objects (usually). Nature never intended for us to cover one eye with a computer display. It appeared that the monacle display in the article was opaque, but I might be wrong. The battery life probably isn't that big a deal. People are used to notebook computers with 3 hour battery lives. I don't remember the article mentioning wireless networking, but that's not too difficult to add.

  • I can just hear it now... chomp chomp... chomp.... oh crap! *frantic chomping* My only question is.... how would you do a ctrl-alt-del? You only have one tongue.........
  • 000 was not forgotten, it was just not counted, by my way of thinking it's the zeroth configuration.

  • You're definatly right about the lack of a good interface and the lack of a killer app. I feel asthetics needs to enter into the mix as well when considering wearable computing. Right now they're big and kind of wierd looking. People don't want to look like a freak. (Of course this is the very thing people said about the walkman when it was introduced 20 years ago.)

    As killer apps go, I'm a big fan of augmen ted reality [] and remembe rance agents []. This could be the killer app once the technology improves.

    Now for my spiel on interfaces. Each computing device, whether it's desktops, PDS, or wearables are used in fundamentally different ways. For a desktop, the desktop-document metaphore works because it's primarly used for "desk work". But for a PDA it doesn't make sense. That's why WinCE failed. People use a PDA like a notepad so a notepadesque interface is the best (like PalmOS). Same thing goes for wearables. People aren't looking for wearables to replace desktops any more than people looked for PDAs to replace desktops. Therefore a new interface needs to be developed. Personally I'd like to see something like the interface used in ohnny Mnemonic []. You just need finger/head tracking. No real devices. That's the interface I think people want to use.
  • I totally screwed that calculation up. That will teach me to speak before I'm awake. ;)

    It should be 43.8 Hours. I wasn't paying attention to the units. ;)
  • Anyone who has watched Red Green knows that the keyboard is no problem. (grin)
  • PalmOS definately wins the battery war, I will give you that, but that's the only thing i will give you. Both the CE and PalmOS, to me are equal. I can get to the memo/notepad just as fast on both palms. I can get to anything that both handhelds have equally as fast (BTW the CE that I and using is not a handheld PC its the palmPC, yes the Hand Held PC is more like a desktop) And for the record, I'm using the Palm IIIe and the Uniden UniPro PC100.

    so for me the only difference is the amount of software, which the PalmOS wins hands down, for now, and the look and feel.

  • LOL! Someone moderate this up! ...dreaded blue eye of death indeed....

    Cliff Palmer, Jr.
  • Yes that is probably true.

    I've probably been watching too many Futuristic Sci-Fi movies in which the devices are almost undetectable and light.

    I just have this notion that a wearable computer should have the wearableness (is that a word?) of the device as its number one priority. And then we can have all the good stuff like 1GHz CPUs. Definately not feasible now, but with Nanotechnology starting to pick up, who knows what will happen in the near future.

  • what happens when you try to overclock? fry yourself?
  • And you only ever need 3 buttons in 'doze anyway -- as long as they've got CTRL-ALT-DELETE covered, that should be all you ever need.
  • by Capt Dan ( 70955 ) on Monday November 29, 1999 @12:59PM (#1495793) Homepage
    So this is kind of long, but i'm trying to get a lot of background information accross... The subject sums up my point pretty well.

    years and years ago when I was an undergrad at CMU, I did software design for wearable computers.
    To the best of my knowledge wearables started out as darpa/NSF funded University research projects, with the main two centers being CMU EDRC and MIT Media Lab. Having worked at one and seen lectures by the other, the MIT boys seem to be driven by how much oompf you can put into a box and the effects of living with/in one on life, and the CMU boys are driven by industrial mission specific design. Both are valid and necessary areas of research.

    I am not an expert in the field, nor do I claim to be. I do, however, have more experience with it than 99% of the population.

    The key job of the wearable computer is, and always will be information access.

    Will someone find a way to run quake 5 on one? Probably. But that is a secondary or tertiary concern.

    The largest problem facing the wearable is the physical user interface. Everyone seems to be tossing faster hardware and more software against the usability problem, and I feel this is the incorrect approach. The OS really does not matter at all.

    In my opinion the correct process should be: Industrial Design and then GUI.

    I am completely unimpressed with IBM wearable. Why? I saw essentially the same interface on the Vu-Man 1 at CMU in 1993.

    One of the best designs that I have seen was the Vuman-2r and 3 (which I coded for), which involved three buttons spaced around a large dial. The idea was you used the buttons to select, and the dial to scroll through information and select options to further direct your search. The dial was big, designed so that it could still be used if you were wearing work gloves and the wearble was *inside* the side cargo pocket found on miltary fatigues. The ID guys came up with the design, the software guys were left out of the process becuase they couldn't think outside the box.

    The software was then designed around these capabilities. And it worked. form design, interface and software were designed from the ground up for the specific tasks and environment where the wearable would excell.

    According to a work aquantance of mine, comdex the info kiosks were apparently run by people with wearables. He is convinced that he could have found information faster in a book, than by asking the wearable info centers.

    Voice recognition seems to be the holy grail of wearable interfaces, but people seem to spend more time on it than on the industrial design of the box. A good physical interface will always be faster and cheaper than voice recognition. If it were not, then why do we still have hot keys so many years after the mouse was debuted?

    IBM has a commerical out with a guy sitting in a public square in europe trading stocks and navigating through excel using voice recognition. Apparently he does quite well in the market that day. I wish I could have been sitting next to him so I could hear exactly what his personal private business was.

    "You want to kiss the sky? Better learn how to kneel." - U2
    "It was like trying to herd cats..." - Robert A. Heinlein
  • Still some problems with the whole concept of the wearable.

    1. User interface. So you have a screen that allow the computer to talk to you, but the ability to talk to the computer is still limited. OK there is voice recognition but it is still limited. Then there is touch pads that are mounted were ever on your body that does not interfere and can be kept out of the way.
    If you limited the user inputs to just pointer clicks, the keypad is eliminated and that does clear up some of the hardware needed. Whatever app you are running then needs to have optimized to point, click, and shoot.

    2. Borging the human. Cables between the battery pack-system-display-the user interface... that keep getting wrapped around you and getting in the way. Wait till you start walking and one of your cables latches onto the handrail on a stair... Ouch.

    3. Just plain Ergonomics. Anytime you put something in front of you face, your attention will be drawn to it. The whole idea of it is to allow the person to move and not be tethered. Fact, most people can not chew gum and walk at the same time. Now imagine a screen that is putting some type of information while walking around. Just one brief glimpse to the screen and the person walks into something because their attention was momentarily is distracted, walks into something and trips and hurts himself. We have problems with cell phones and cars? Wait tills some idiot starts playing quake on the highway.

    I have problems with people who wear a walkman. They are oblivious to the world and are only using one of their senses. With this they are going to be zombie.
  • Glad you asked. ;-)

    You can't scale Win98 down to work on less powerful hardware the way you can with Linux. Building a Linux kernel that only has to support specific needs of the hardware in use - and no larger - makes for a lean, fast OS.

    The cost helps too since these devices ought to become the next Walkman(TM).


  • i didn't know i had that on. i think this'll fix it.
  • After all, it is running win98 ;-)
  • I would expect the laser/retina trick to be more effective. I've never managed to superimpose one image on another by putting one in front of each of my eyes. And superimposing is pretty important (for me at least) because it would let me get my computer to recognize people for me to compensate for my face blindness [].
  • How SETI works is that your client processes one packet at a time. What is proposed with the Beowulf, is that the single packet is distributed amongst the wearables so that the packet is processed by all wearables at the same but shorter time.
  • Viavoice SDK is available for Linux, and IBM have announced that it is porting the engine and the task factories etc. check out the IBM ViaVoice site [] for more details.

    It would appear that they have more of a committment than you might think.

  • Well said.

  • Well, there's a commercial version made by MicroOptical Corp: []

    Sadly not yet in general production...

  • Bleh, hard drive space requirements rather ;)
  • How about controls selected on the screen via the cursor position?

    Any number of permutations is possible - :-)

  • Think Nicolas Cage in that helicoptor movie. They spend a whole bunch of time getting him to get information from a monacle.
  • As soon as this little baby comes out, I'll be making a quick Linux port. And then I'll invest a few days hacking together a Head Up Display style window manager, complete with luminous green target sights and optical tracking systems.

    And thus I will earn immortal fame for being the one to unleash upon the streets of the world a plague of geeks pretending to be The Terminator.
  • Apparently, Steve has a display built into a pair of wire-frame bi-focals. I haven't actually seen it, as it is somewhat fragile (bond wires as structural elements!), but it is supposed to be rather inconspicuous.

    I can't seem to find a link to the paper that describes it; however, it should be at []

    I do some work with Steve at the Wearable Computing lab. Very cool stuff -- the site above has quite a bit of material on both the technology and math of wearable computing, personal imaging, and so forth.
  • well... the mac only has one button, and you can do a variety of things. like single click, double click, hold a button down...
  • After all wouldn't 98 take up a horrendous amount of space?

    Do you mean space on the display, space in memory, or space on the hard drive?

    I know it's physically small, but I wouldn't really compare this thing to a handheld. It's got a 10 inch "virtual" screen, which gives plenty of real estate (enough to make WinCE look silly, I'd think). It's got 64MB of memory -- also more than enough for Win98. They don't state the size of the hard drive, but, as we all know, you can pack plenty of storage in a small volume these days.

    BTW, thank you for the reasonable reply. It sure would be nice to see /. become a bastion of truly free thought (not as in beer) rather than being limited to politically correct flamewars about how many angels can dance on the head of a software license.

    -- Brian

  • You'll want to look at Blinux [] if you actually care about the state of voice-interfacing in linux.

    This page [], in particular, shows the various voice-recognition projects, so that you may research what can be done that way.

    And, as a side-note, linux is infinitely more suited to voice if you know how to use the command line, because all you need is an engine that converts speech-to-text, not one that converts speech-to-text-to-equivalent-mouse-action.

  • I'm launching a company based on Wearable computers. Your help will be appreciated.

    You can help shape a product that will be designed as Open Source, Easily cusomizeable (sp?), available before Christmas this year, and open to any OS you choose.

    I won't lie to you and say that I don't want a profit (we all gotta live), but I WILL make a number of accomodations based on comments from , and discounts available to the slashdot community.

    Five people who participate in this questionnaire, may be chosen (by me) to try my wearable for one month for free.

    Questionnaire []

  • "Combining this with the 3-button input device they have, you can free up one button to dedicate to keyboard input. How? You can either use a morse-code system (ick!) or you could use something ala the palm pilot. Use the thumb button as a toggle to bring up a visual keyboard, and "click" away by looking at the letter and clicking what you want. The 2nd mouse button in this mode could be backspace."

    If you're going to emulate the Palm Pilot in any way in a wearable, add a writing "pad" that accepts the Pilot's Graffiti writing system. It can be small enough to put on one side of the mouse thingy, and it will make entering text...well, not as fast as having a keyboard, but not so slow as to be unusable (which is what I find on-screen keyboards to be.)

  • I'm pretty sure this guy was joking. Lighten up.
  • I am not sure if the device they show allows the same thing, but the Forte CyberPuck has three buttons and a tilt sensor, for use as a "baseless" joystick. It is fully analog, so you can have a complete range of values for X/Y axis control - the three buttons are standard joystick buttons (the thing plugs into the joystick port).

    The are similar devices also available that look like baseless "pistol-grip" joysticks - that may/may not have more buttons. These devices work pretty well for navigating in standard 3D games (Doom, Quake) - but they might be a pain for anything else (true 6DOF games, or a desktop style environment) - but they should work ok for menu style selection...

  • if you read the specs, you'll see it is a see- through display...

  • One reason why Win98 and variants are so popular in Japan (as well as other places in Asia) is because of the very good Asian language support, both in the O/S and the applications. I have worked in both Japan and Korea and I can tell you that in terms of full-featured applications which support these languages, Linux and other UNIX systems have a long way to go.

    Matt Welsh
  • IBM and Olympus are already partners in marketing a digital dictafone, that is sold with ViaVoice, a PCMCIA card, and some kind of interface software; with the idea being that you can dictate and then edit as text. Does this partnership suggest that Speech Recognition might be the motivating reason behind the development?

  • I mostly agree with you. Voice recognition is getting really good and more powerful hardware is helping all the time. The problem there is privacy. I don't want the guy next to me on the train to hear me dictate a personal email. I'm sure there are people on Wall Street who have some pretty important information that they'd rather not say out loud in public.
    Question to anyone: How effective is current software at catching whisper volume speech?
    Crazy idea I just had: What about a unit that looks like a phone operator mic (sitting out in front of your mouth), but it's actually a video camera that's reading your lips, not listening to the audio. That would work if you were speaking normally or just mouthing the words. I'm no linguist, but I'd bet that people *form* words a lot more similarly than they actually speak (with voice pitch and accents).
    Question to anyone out there who can read lips: Is it more of a science that you could teach a computer with enough rules, or is it more of an art that relies a lot on context clues and body language?

    Final note: If anyone makes millions of dollars on this idea, buy me some good beer.

  • In 98 IBM got 2,658 patents in the US. over 7 per day. They have a hell of a lot of CompScis there.

  • That device is interesting.

    But there's something else that I am looking for - a small, very light portable box that includes standard PC hardware, but that is not a laptop.

    It should be just a little box with connectors for keyboard, screen, mouse, network, period.

    Why? Well, for one, whereever I go, keyboards, screens and mice are already there. Also, most laptops make a lot of compromises for the sake of including everything in one box. Yet, a "normal" PC, even one in a portable case, is not light or portable enough.

    Does anyone know where to find such a box?

  • The MIT Technology Review [] (May-June 99 issue) covered systems like this, although from the photo it would appear that Olympus/IBM have reduced the form factor still more. The magazine has an article about Steve Mann's work on wearable computers. []

    Steve's gear is actually built into his clothing and displayed via a pair of heavy glasses. He makes use of wireless networking where-ever he goes so his computer can assist him with info, etc (even to the point of setting up his own transmitters, etc if he's in a convention). With the aid of his system, he can appear to know about almost any topic. Fascinating stuff that's really taking you into Gargoyle land...

    The system referred to in the BBC article is still a little too obtrusive/clunky for my liking. Much better than the old Compaq "Portable" that was my first mobile, however :)
  • Well, it looks like we have a use for that neural interface technology that the doctor doesn't want us to have.

    Being able to move a phantom finger over a phantom keyboard sounds pretty useful here, I wonder if you could do better. I know I have some neurons that are wired to touch-type, could we learn how to do the same sort of thing, without the fingers, and stuff? I'd be pretty happy if I could use my brain as a fast keyboard.
    pb Reply or e-mail rather than vaguely moderate [].
  • Palms run a graphical, intuitive operating system that takes many of its touches (both at the user and system level) from the Macintosh OS. What the original poster was talking about was how consumers will not buy a PDA that runs a command-line OS, which I agree with. After all, DOS-based organizers never caught on big-time, and Linux just can't compete with something like PalmOS that's designed from the ground up to work with portable systems.

    I stand by my assertion that Linux is no better suited for a PDA than Windows is. Use the right tool for the right job.
  • by tyresias ( 31737 ) on Monday November 29, 1999 @11:55AM (#1495863)

    IBM's page on the wearable is at html [].

    Notably, it uses a 233MHz MMX Pentium, uses 64MB RAM, has a 340MB disk, NeoMagic 128XD video chip set, and the screen resolution is 320x240 (with a note that the SVGA version is under development).

    Has anyone seen the IBM commercial with the guy using one of these with voice control and wireless connection? -- very neat!

  • That's the eyepiece. Frankly, the idea of a wearable computer doesn't thrill me all that much--as it stands, I try to avoid using my mouse as much as I can, and a computer without a keyboard strikes me as just useless. Give a wearable computer a keyboard, and you'uve suddenly got a laptop with a strap.

    Have we finally got a truly viable eyepiece as output device? If so, that's the part I like. The savings in battery usage on a laptop would be significant, dual eyepieces provide 3d (of course)...if they're good enough, I might even consider using one on my desktop.

    I'd certainly consider them if they could be made of transparent plastic and switchable (so I could look through them as needed.)

  • I'm taking it by the "ick" you are assuming that Linux would be a better operating system choice for these devices. But why? This device has no keyboard, so what inroads has linux made into voice activated user interfaces? What window manager/desktop environment allows you to launch programs with voice commands? Which email program under linux can I use to retrieve and send email purely by voice? What browser is it that navigates by speech? What standards are there for writing voice activated apps under linux?

    Maybe you were thining of OS/2 as a choice, which is pretty good with the whole integration of voice everywhere. But there aren't as may apps as on Windows and the Windows voice support is pretty good.

    This is an area of linux that needs quite a bit of work if it can be used on wearable computers. I am doubtful the hardest core linux person would be truly happy running it on one of these.

  • My iMac only has USB ports and it can run Linux. USB support for LinuxPPC was developed because it was necessary to make it work on an iMac. If PCs or wearable computers come out with only USB ports, I'm sure Linux will eventually be able to work with them.
  • by CryoMax ( 113056 ) on Monday November 29, 1999 @12:00PM (#1495880) Homepage
    Wearable computers have been out for a while, in various forms. The future of wearable computers is not going to be what OS it runs, or how much power it has (look at the Palm [] PDAs... Not a lot of power, but *extremely* useful and popular).

    The future is going to be dictated by two things, software and interface. The biggest reason wearable computers aren't "human efficient" yet are the interfaces. The point of wearables is lost if you have to break out a keyboard in order to enter data, or need a flat surface to run your mouse on. The pistol grip mouse controller this new machine has is a step forward, but the lack of random character input hinders its usefulness. There are TV ads for wearables that are voice-controlled, but these interfaces are not optimal due to the simple fact that people sitting next to you on the bus simply do not want to hear you controlling your computer.

    There exist some palm-held keyboards that work on a chording principle, I believe some of the gargoyle cyborgs at the MIT Media Lab use these; with only five buttons, you can chord together all the keys on a keyboard. The major problem with this reaching mainstream is that it is a completely different mechanism that would have be learned & practiced. There were some ergonomic keyboards that took advantage of the chording concept (to prevent having to move your fingers all over the place), but these didn't take off for much the same reason.

    What, then, is going to drive the industry towards wearables? IMHO, it's software. People were apparently willing to learn the Graffiti system for the Palm because that line of PDAs provided the right kinds of software in a very portable fashion. The software was mostly read-only, data entry is not its strong point, but neither was it intended to be. That's the kind of thing that a wearable computer could be useful for -- the keyboard isn't so necessary if all you're doing is displaying data.

    Of course, you don't need a Pentium to display data! Which means a heads-up Visor (hmm... fate? ;) could just as easily be the next big thing. As well, perhaps it's not the machine we should be impressed with, so much as the headset -- I can think of many more uses for a head-mounted, your-eyes-only, just-like-a-monitor display, even with conventional laptops -- on a plane, bus, train, for security reasons and/or for space limitations.

    I love the idea of wearable computers. Someone just needs to develop the killer app for it, something that would give people a reason to actually want to use one on a constant basis.

    If it's not important, you can probably find it in...

  • by Hobbex ( 41473 ) on Monday November 29, 1999 @12:02PM (#1495881)

    I am a true believer in the wearable PC. Consider what a technologically interested person might carry on him when he leaves the house nowerdays:

    - Mobile phone. Complete with email gateway-ed messaging, and possibly wap based web surfing.
    - PDA with a good interface and a bunch of flexible applications
    - Portable mp3 player with multimedia capacity and as much as 100 mb (or 4.8 gigs for that new Compaq one) of memory space.
    - Gameboy for that much needed Tetris fix.

    And more are on the way, such as city navigating GPS units, those digital book readers, etc etc. Can one possibly imaging these things NOT going to converg?

    What is important to me though is that it is truly a wearable PC. I don't want an extended mobile phone with a bunch of embedded services, but a computer on my person that gives me as much freedom as my computer at home (and yes that means Linux). I don't want to put myself in the hands of hardware makers and other making programs that serve there interest. For example, the new GRPS (packet data over GSM) enabled phones here will be crippled to not allow voice data over ip/grps, since that would be cheaper than using the GSM service per minute fees. And the hardware music players will start limiting what songs I can play by obeying the SDMI iniative.

    If someone could combine the virtual freedom of the PC with the physical freedom of a wearable device, that would be a true killer. Go get rich somebody.

    We cannot reason ourselves out of our basic irrationality. All we can do is learn the art of being irrational in a reasonable way.
  • I use to work at Allina Health Systems. Some of the surgeons would use wearable computers when performing rare surgeries. They would use it to quickly get information. They used a cord keyboard that works by pressing multiple buttons to get a letter.

"There is no distinctly American criminal class except Congress." -- Mark Twain