Wearable computers

In brief

August 25, 1996|By Seattle Post-Intelligencer

It may be a few years before they show up at Nordstrom, but wearable computers are coming.

Not just big, heavy helmets and backpacks, but small, lightweight processors that we'll view through normal-looking eyeglasses.

But we won't just view them. We'll also talk to them, and they'll talk to us. They'll even communicate with each other and look around on their own.

At a workshop last week at a Boeing facility in Seattle, researchers described a wide array of potential uses for wearable computers.

An airplane assembler, for example, could save a lot of time if a head-mounted display showed exactly where to place the next part. Or wearables might help people with impaired vision by recognizing faces for them.

A prototype being developed for the Army could map a foot soldier's location, tell him where the enemy is hiding, even show in a head-mounted display where his weapon is aimed so he can fire it without exposing himself -- like shooting around a corner.

At home, sensor networks would let your bed notice when you arose in the morning and signal the coffee maker, which in turn could consult a weather sensor and, finding it cold outside, make an extra cup.

Today's wearable computers tend to be cumbersome and obtrusive. But miniaturization may allow the technology to "disappear" into ordinary clothing and eyeglasses.

Pub Date: 8/25/96

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