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An expanded Web version of segments seen on CNN

MIT 'cyborgs' bridge gap between man and machine

Digital jacket
The threads in this jacket are made of circuitry called e-broidery  
July 23, 1998
Web posted at: 2:44 p.m. EDT (1444 GMT)

From Correspondent Ann Kellan

BOSTON (CNN) -- For most of us, the computer is that box on the desk, with the keyboard and mouse. But some researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology would like to change that. They're anticipating a future where your computer could be as close as the shirt on your back.

As researchers at MIT's media lab look for ways to blur the lines between computers and the rest of the world, they would rather see people wearing jackets made of circuitry known as e-broidery instead of lugging a bulky laptop around.

MIT also is testing a computerized baseball cap that translates sign language into a synthesized, digital voice.
Windows Media 28K 56K

"What we are interested in is merging the computer with the clothing so that all you need to do is get dressed," Neil Gershenfeld says. ( 170 K/ 15 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

Or put on your glasses.

Thad Starner, a research assistant at MIT's media lab, calls himself a cyborg: His computer monitor is part of his glasses, while the keyboard and computer are appendages, hanging by his side.

"It has every book that I've read for my classwork for the past five years, every classroom discussion, every problem set," he says. "It means that instead of sitting there writing my thesis, I'm out in a park somewhere working on my writing there."

In fact, a monitor embedded in prescription eyeglasses is the latest in cyborg wear.

Starner sports his computer-integrated glasses  

"The display is actually here in the earpiece. It's a little mirror on the side that sends the image through the lens through a little beam splitting device and then into the eye," Starner explains. ( 68 K/ 5 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

Just down the hall from where Starner works, sits Mr. Java, a coffee machine that knows if you like latte or expresso. A chip fixed to the bottom of your mug is read by the coffee machine, which is hooked up to a nearby computer, explains MIT researcher Niko Matsakis. The result is a steaming cup of hot coffee "just the way you like it." ( 136 K/ 12 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

The MIT researchers say everything they do stems around making the computers or machines more personal, easier to use and more integrated into people's daily lives. ( 179 K/ 16 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

But don't expect to be able to buy the latest in e-broidery any time soon.

These gadgets and gizmos may work in the MIT's lab, but there's still a long way to go before our clothing computes or our coffee machines know our caffeine cravings.

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