ad info

 
CNN.com  technology > computing
    Editions | myCNN | Video | Audio | Headline News Brief | Feedback  

 

  Search
 
 

 
TECHNOLOGY
TOP STORIES

Consumer group: Online privacy protections fall short

Guide to a wired Super Bowl

Debate opens on making e-commerce law consistent

(MORE)

TOP STORIES

More than 11,000 killed in India quake

Mideast negotiators want to continue talks after Israeli elections

(MORE)

MARKETS
4:30pm ET, 4/16
144.70
8257.60
3.71
1394.72
10.90
879.91
 


WORLD

U.S.

POLITICS

LAW

ENTERTAINMENT

HEALTH

TRAVEL

FOOD

ARTS & STYLE



(MORE HEADLINES)
*
 
CNN Websites
Networks image


Excuse me, is that a monitor on your head?

Image
The current version of Xybernaut's Mobile Assistant IV uses a tiny monitor coupled with a mirror  
PC World

March 31, 2000
Web posted at: 8:35 a.m. EST (1335 GMT)

(IDG) -- You may wear a pager or a cell phone on your belt. And if you're a genuine gadget freak, you might even wear one of those oh-so-stylish Leatherman multi-purpose tools in its own holster. But are you ready to wear a computer, complete with a head-mounted display?

Wearable computers have been around for many years, and have even found acceptance in industrial, medical, and military applications, but a couple factors have kept them from wider use. One is cost, with typical systems starting at thousands of dollars above notebook PCs. And then there's the geeky-nerd image.

  MESSAGE BOARD
 

Still, wearable technology is forging ahead. And to help push it along, Xybernaut, a leading maker of high-powered commercial wearables, has announced a joint agreement with Microvision, a maker of a laser-based head-mounted virtual display. Xybernaut will sell a version of its Mobile Assistant IV with Microvision's display. Although units are in beta now, commercial availability isn't expected until late this year or early next.

MORE COMPUTING INTELLIGENCE
IDG.net   IDG.net home page
  Wearable PCs offer function, not fashion
  Portable devices get wearable
  Become a walking Net node
  E-BusinessWorld
  Reviews & in-depth info at IDG.net
  IDG.net's personal news page
  Year 2000 World
  Questions about computers? Let IDG.net's editors help you
  Subscribe to IDG.net's free daily newsletter for computer geniuses (& newbies)
  Search IDG.net in 12 languages
  News Radio
  * Fusion audio primers
  * Computerworld Minute

At this point, pricing is unclear. A Xybernaut representative said only that the Mobile Assistant with the Microvision display will be "very high end." (Current models sell in the $5000-$7000 range.) And a Microvision spokesperson refused to comment on the cost of their current displays, which are custom-built for many high-end applications. One of the displays is used during neurosurgery, allowing a surgeon to view anatomical images and the patient's data without turning away from the surgical field.

Microvision's "augmented reality" displays use a very low power laser to "paint" a full-color high-resolution image directly onto the retina of a user's eye. The end result, according to the company, is a virtual image of a computer screen that appears to float several feet in front of you, and doesn't block your vision.

Although virtual-image screens that mount in front of the eye have been available for the last decade, they block the user's view, are usually monochrome only, and are low-resolution.

Although the thought of pointing a laser into your eye may give some users pause, Microvision says it's the infrared frequencies of commercial lasers that can damage the eye, and the company's displays use only visible light lasers. In addition, the laser intensity is extremely low. Microvision's displays use higher-intensity lasers are in military applications, but incorporate additional fail-safe safety features.

Advances like the new Microvision display will continue to push wearable computers into more sophisticated applications, although wider consumer acceptance seems a long way away, even as prices eventually begin to fall. Advances in high-quality head-mounted displays, especially smaller units that can mount on eyeglasses, will also eventually make wearable PCs less obvious and intrusive. In the meantime, only a stalwart group of commercial users and affluent early adopters seem willing to look like refugees from a Star Trek audition.



RELATED STORIES:
Turn on, jack in and geek out with wearable PC
January 7, 2000
Wearable PCs offer function, not fashion
December 27, 1999
Xybernaut now has Linux for wearable PCs
December 16, 1999

RELATED IDG.net STORIES:
Wearable PCs offer function, not fashion
(PC World Online)
Portable devices get wearable
(PC World Online)
Become a walking Net node
(PC World Online)
Carrying a concealed business weapon
(PC World Online)
MP3 on your wrist
(PC World Online)
Digital TV meets the Web
(PC World Online)
Keep your monitor from prying eyes
(PC World Online)

RELATED SITES:
Microvision
Xybernaut
MIT wearable computing Web page

Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.

 Search   

Back to the top   © 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.