Hands-free computer among new high-tech concepts
February 9, 1998
A demonstration of "free-action" technology
Web posted at: 11:03 p.m. EST (0403 GMT)
INDIAN WELLS, California (CNN) -- Imagine surfing the Internet without a mouse, keyboard, joystick or microphone -- or even touching the computer at all.
It's an unusual new approach to computers developed by a company called Reality Fusion. Dubbed "free-action" technology, it was one of several concepts and products displayed at a recent conference in California called "Demo 98."
With free-action, users look into the computer screen and see themselves, somewhat like looking into a mirror. To make the computer perform an operation, users "touch" the air in front of objects depicted on the screen -- without actually touching the computer.
One application already proposed: using the technology to browse through real estate listings online.
While the free-action technology remains under development, other products aimed at simplifying computers and taking the mystery out of the Internet are already on the market.
A new product called the "I-Phone" doubles as a gateway to the Internet, even for people just getting comfortable with
"That fear and complexity that a lot of people have associated with the Internet and computers ... you erase those barriers and it's just a telephone," said Bruce Gee of CIDCO, the company that developed the product. "Everyone's very familiar with the telephone."
The phone includes a screen that users can touch to send
e-mail or see what's playing at the movies. The cost is $499.
For those people tangled in a high-tech web of e-mail, voice mail, faxes and Internet documents, a prototype from Sun Microsystems functions as an Internet answering machine. It can be set up to forward e-mail messages as faxes or voice mail to a phone number.
"Because all of the messages are unified in one place, just using the phone, I can get to all of them," said Geoffrey Baehr of Sun.
The prototype was actually designed to look more like a toy than a computer. It's just another one of many high-tech tools being developed in the fight against information overload.
Correspondent Marsha Walton contributed to this report.