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IBM and Olympus demo wearable PC – again

Showing them's easier than building and selling them, apparently...

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IBM and the Japanese camera manufacturer Olympus have produced a prototype of a wearable PC weighing 14.3oz (370g). IBM also demonstrated another prototype in Tokyo in September last year which weighed a little less. It's been such a long time coming that there is a real danger that it will be distinctly out of fashion by the time it's available, although it could hit the stores "soon". At present, there is no keyboard, since speech recognition is used. The device is planned to appeal to consumers who want to look at files or play audio. There is a banana-shaped handle that has a two-button touchpad that allows icons to be selected on an Olympus "eye-trek" screen that flips out from a headset. Readers seriously wishing to know more about the cyberborg potential could enroll in the next University of Toronto course on Personal Cybernetics, but perhaps they should first see a picture of the present class at wearcomp.org. There are also photos of Steve Mann's wearable devices going back to 1980. The only readily available kit at the moment appears to be the Xybernaut MA IV, which is now fortunately lighter than the first version, but is still rather heavy at two pounds (900g), and even heavier on the pocket (around $9000 initially, but now through the $6000 barrier for a basic head-mounted display version). The main use so far has been in situations where PDAs can't easily be used, for example in certain maintenance work where hands-free working is essential, including medical applications such as endoscopy. The common features of wearables so far as been Windows and mostly Intel chips, but IBM made the point last year that Windows 98 was used for demonstration purposes. But with IBM's ViaVoice already being offered for the Red Hat distribution, it may not be long before the smart dude is seen wearing a Microsoft-free version, which will make Bill G's digital wallet look pretty old-fashioned. ®

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