Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Forget Jewelry, the Latest Accessory Is a Computer

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Forget Jewelry, the Latest Accessory Is a Computer

Article excerpt

To be at the cutting edge, it's no longer enough to carry around a notebook with more computing power than the entire world had in 1959. Nope. To be "tech chic," you have to wear the thing.

Today, some workers are belting or strapping on all manner of "wearable computers." By 2000, you could wear one too. Think of it as the Sony Walkman of our age.

"We are at a real cusp," says Ted Selker, a fellow at the IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, Calif. "People are wearing technology all over them already {such as pagers and electronic organizers}. The question is: Are we going to integrate them?" Dr. Selker thinks so. He's working on an "electronic wallet" that combines a cellular phone, beeper, scanner, and a small keyboard and screen to keep track of names, addresses, and appointments. The unit even includes an electronic credit card, which users can program to be their Visa card one time, their American Express card the next. An IBM colleague has dreamed up a companion technology: the wearable computer network. It uses an incredibly weak electric field running through the body to carry data. Someday, perhaps, you'll exchange electronic business cards every time you shake hands with someone. So far, the electronic wallet and handshake are laboratory curiosities. But several small companies are beginning to sell "wearable computers" to specialized markets. For example, Navy technicians are testing wearable computers from a small Fairfax, Va., company called Xybernaut. The idea: Repairs will be better and quicker if technicians have hands-free access to maintenance manuals. Xybernaut's canteen-sized Mobile Assistant II straps over the shoulder and connects to a visor-like unit that includes earphones, a microphone, and a small computer screen about one inch from the eye. That way, technicians can keep their hands working while their eyes focus back and forth between the on-screen instructions and the machinery. …

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