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Wearable PC to debut at Comdex

The Mobile Assistant IV   

November 11, 1998
Web posted at: 5:00 PM EDT

by James A. Martin

(IDG) -- People wear the funniest things in Las Vegas: Roman togas, feathered headpieces, sequined jumpsuits, and soon, personal computers.

During the giant Comdex show in Vegas the week of November 16, Xybernaut plans to unveil its latest product: a PC that clips onto a belt.

The Mobile Assistant IV is designed primarily for factory workers who routinely perform inspection, repair, diagnostic, and maintenance jobs and require easy, on-the-spot access to databases. Other target users include health-care workers, emergency service personnel, and workers who perform inventory or computer-aided instruction.

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The MA IV was first seen at a trade show last May and is expected to be available in December through En Pointe Technologies, Sentel, and other resellers. Prices start at $4995 (excluding display).

You need a good stiff belt

The MA IV has a 200-MHz or 233-MHz MMX Pentium CPU housed in a 1.5-pound module, not much bigger than a Sony Walkman, that attaches to a belt. An entry-level belt module includes 32MB of RAM, a 2.1GB hard drive, a battery, and a charger. Higher-end versions can accommodate as much as 128MB of memory and a 4.3GB hard drive.

The belt module also includes a two-slot PC Card reader, built-in mouse, and audio support for speech recognition applications. The system has a USB port and a port replicator for adding peripherals such as bar-code scanners, Global Positioning System devices, and wireless communications and diagnostic devices.

Display options include a one-pound, six-inch, flat-panel color VGA panel that can be worn on the wrist or on a belt, and a full-color VGA head-mounted display. The latter comes with an integrated microphone for speech recognition input, and a tiny color video camera. In addition, the head-mounted display promises the same perceived image as a conventional computer monitor, as seen from the typical distance a desktop user would experience. The

MA IV runs Window 95/98, Windows NT, UNIX, and Linux operating systems.

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