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Gadget Report [Gadget Freak: Brave New Wardrobe - 03/31/2005]

Discussion in 'PC Hardware' started by Ablang, Apr 1, 2005.

  1. Ablang

    Ablang Guest

    March 31st, 2005

    Gadget Freak: Brave New Wardrobe

    by PC World Contributing Editor Dan Tynan

    When it comes to fashion, I'm stuck between the preppie eighties and
    the grungy nineties. It's not a pretty sight, as my wife will attest.
    But my wardrobe may soon become a whole lot hipper, thanks to some
    nifty gadgets that double as clothing accessories.

    For example, Oakley's $500 Thump combines a flash MP3 player with a
    set of lightweight and stylish sunglasses--a very cool gadget:

    Ingenio's $599 Eyetop DVD fixes a tiny display to a pair of wraparound
    shades, which is wired to a portable DVD player on your hip (very

    NYX Clothing is marketing $2000 jackets with LEDs sewn into the fabric
    that can display text messages from your PDA or your cell phone--handy
    for emergency roadside workers or all-night ravers. VectraSense
    Technologies sells a $500-plus sneaker that physically adapts to your
    foot, records how far and fast you run, and can wirelessly zap your
    contact information to your compatibly clad fellows:

    And of course there's Microsoft, which wants you to fork over $10 per
    month to get news and weather reports from MSN Direct delivered to a
    special $199 wristwatch:

    But before ware-wear becomes a standard part of our wardrobes, we will
    have to solve two niggling little problems: input and output.

    Wash 'n' Ware

    Many of us already wear computers, only we call them cell phones, says
    Sandy Pentland, director of MIT Media Lab's wearable computing
    project. Like PCs, today's handsets let you surf the Net, play MP3s,
    and watch videos. Do anything fancier than jabber into the phone,
    though, and you'll quickly run into its Achilles' heel: an
    eensy-weensy keypad and screen.

    Voice recognition can help, but just imagine barking commands at your
    handheld in a meeting or at the movies. One solution may be fabric
    keyboards sewn into a sleeve or pant leg, says Pentland (an idea that
    screams "Geek!"). Another may be gesture recognition. Samsung plans to
    release a phone in Korea that detects movement: To dial, draw the
    number in the air; to end a call, shake the phone.

    Displays are tougher. The usual approach has been to graft a display
    onto a pair of glasses, where it can be magnified to look like a
    10-inch laptop screen. But this brings its own problems, says Steve
    Schwartz, a Media Lab alum who designs head-mounted displays for the
    U.S. Army.

    To get enough bandwidth to transmit video means running wires to the
    headset--ugly and potentially hazardous, especially in combat--or
    using a wireless antenna that sucks battery power, making the unit
    bulky and unattractive. A possible solution may lie in low-voltage
    wireless technologies and organic LEDs that are brighter than LCDs but
    draw a fraction of the power, says Pentland.

    See "OLED: New Star of the Small Screen" for more on OLEDs:

    Worse, with video, even small movements--like chewing gum with the
    headmount on--can give you that disorienting "I'm about to hurl"
    feeling. There's also the distraction factor. "How is Joe Citizen
    going to parse a nastygram e-mail from his boss while crossing the
    street without getting killed by a bus?" asks Schwartz.

    So when will the average Joe or Jane open the closet and see wearable
    wares in there?

    "If I'm feeling optimistic, then I say next year," says Pentland.
    "Pessimistic would be four or five years. The fundamental technology
    is all there, it just needs to mature."

    Funny, that's exactly what my wife says about me and my wardrobe.

    Read Dan Tynan's regularly published "Gadget Freak" columns:

    "We did it every way you could. She was an animal in bed. But it wasn't cheap."
    -- Britney Spears's ex-husband Jason Alexander on their night together before exchanging vows
    Ablang, Apr 1, 2005
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