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The wild world of wearable computers

Are you ready for talking watches, singing shoes, ringing earrings and vibrating tattoos?

By Julie Sartain, Network World
August 20, 2012 12:06 AM ET

Page 3 of 3

So, What's Next?

"Wearable computers are about the individual, any communal affair would entail networking a few of these devices via WiFi, for example, and users would simply use the display in front of their eyes and the headset in their ears to collaborate. Holograms are useful when a projection can be made for a score of collaborators who could then literally walk around the 3D display and study it. If a wearable computer were in the form of a bracelet, a holographic projection would be a great way to view content. And, come to think of it, I'd rather put on a bracelet-type of wearable than a pair of glasses — it's less obstructive," concludes Ghubril.

"I think the concept of ubiquitous computing and connected environments, using tools like the wildly popular Twine Kickstarter project, will start replacing wearables or, at a minimum, making wearables more lightweight, as data and triggers move from the wearable to the environment," says Silva.

"As far as new form factors for items such as keyboards and monitors, and our interaction with these devices, the `minority report'-effect is still a ways off," adds Silva. "I think the biggest barrier to-date has been systems and computers that are as smart or as novel as those interaction systems. Now that we have systems that track and understand our gestures and can parse speech, we may very well find that those new form-factor displays and input devices are the next shoe to drop."

Future World

In The Matrix, Morpheus tells Neo that the human body generates 25,000 BTUs of heat; that is more bioelectricity than a 120-volt battery (or 100 to 120 watts of energy). Unfortunately, our current technology has yet to achieve anything more than a few milliwatts, but that's about to change. Last March at CeBit, Vladimir Leonov (from the Belgian Nano Electronics Research Center IMEC), introduced an energy-harvesting technology that uses thermoelectric elements integrated into textiles (or skin) to produce energy; enough energy, they say, to power body sensors such as a heart rate monitor, a pulse oxymeter, a blood oxygen sensor, or even a watch.

Silva speculates that it's not far off to imagine a smartphone or tablet device or some other home-automation system connecting with users' televisions or connecting to other projectable surfaces in their homes, so that our computing environment is pervasive. "It will follow us wherever we are, it will allow us to interact with it however we need to — depending on what we're doing, and it will be something that knows who we are based on our habits and our social graph making it a bit smarter. I think our next TVs will be more than just TVs, I think they'll be a lot more like display front ends for ethereal computing power and remote storage. The wearable aspect will simply be more, low-cost devices that extend our interaction."

Sartain is a freelance writer. She can be reached at juliesd@comcast.net.

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

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