NOV  1999        P 2            P3          P4

WEARABLE  COMPUTING

      Compiled by  Carroll Palmer
In order to keep you abreast of what's going on in the computer world, here is some information about what is referred to generically as "wearable computers".
The fuzzy definition of a wearable computer (WC) is that it's a computer that is always with you, is comfortable and easy to keep and use, and is as unobtrusive as clothing.  However, this "smart clothing" definition is unsatisfactory when viewed in the details.  A more specific definition is that wearable computers have many of the following characteristics:
Portable while operational: The most distinguishing feature of a wearable is that it can be used while walking or otherwise moving around.  This distinguishes wearables from both desk top and laptop computers.
Hands-free use: Military and industrial applications for wearables especially emphasize their hands-free aspect, and concentrate on speech input and heads-up display or voice output. Other wearables might also use keyboards, dials, and joysticks to minimize the tying up of a user's hands.
Sensors: In addition to user-inputs, a wearable should have sensors for the physical environment.  Such sensors might include wireless communications, GPS, cameras, or microphones.
Attention-getting:  A wearable should be able to convey information to its user even when not actively being used.  For example, if your computer wants to let you know you have new email and who it is from, it should be able to communicate this information to you immediately.
Always on:  By default a wearable is always on and working, sensing, and acting. This is opposed to the normal use of "Personal digital Assistants," which normally sit in one's pocket and are only woken up when a task needs to be done.
Having a WC will be equivalent to carrying an entire reference library with instant access.  Webster's dictionary and thesaurus are always useful to have, as well as maps and phone books.  With the jump to 5 gig drives, it would be possible to put an encyclopedia onto the WC and have real-time access to a tremendous wealth of information.
All notes, i.e., from trips, classes, business meetings, are always with the user.  With a fast search engine, the user can pull up needed information in seconds.  One will never have to go hunting for a pen or piece of paper again, and never worry about searching for that missing napkin with the new system design scrawled on it.
In a manner similar to the development of multimedia PCs, all consumer electronics -Music CD players, fax machines, pagers, audio journals - will be integrated into the wearable design.  One device will be able to handle all forms of electronic media, whether it be audio, visual, or wireless digital communication.
A seldom realized aspect of wearable computing is augmented reality: the seamless integration of real and virtual worlds.  Electronically stored information is extremely useful when overlayed over a view of the outside world.  For example, captions displayed with museum exhibits, names over faces (via face recognition) , wiring schematics associated with the current project.
  Most people with functional systems will wear the WC about 16 hours a day, seven days a week.  Basically, all the time except during sports, showers, sleep, and other such activities.
Since one of the defining features of wearable computers is their portability.  WCs can be used anywhere a person can work comfortably.  With 8-10 hour battery life and digital cellular modems providing internet access, working on a wearable allows the same
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