INTRODUCTION TO WEARABLE COMPUTERS

Wearable computers are not clearly defined at this point in time in the industry. There is a disagreement about whether wearable and ubiquitous computing is the same thing. The Gartner Group is a leading world authority on information technology, considered wearable computing to be a subset of ubiquitous computing. Ubiquitous computing is embedding of computers in the world around us. The human body is considered to be  natural location for functions relating to mobile, personal communications and informations management (i.e., messaging, calendaring, and contact information); whereas, environmental, ubiquitous computing is focused on situated activities (i.e. an office that senses when  occupant approaches and configures computer screens with the preferred configuration profile). (Gartner Group Researcher Note., 1997)

Steve Mann, a leading researcher in wearable computers, has authored several paper on the definition alone. According to Mr. Mann, A wearable computer is a computer that is subsumed into the personal space of the user, controlled by  user, and has both the operational and interactional constancy, i.e. is always accessible." (Mann, S., 1998). He identified six attributes for wearable computer as follows:

  1. Non monopolizing of the user’s attention

  2. unrestrictive to the user

  3. observable by the user

  4. controllable by the user

  5. attentive to the environment

  6. communicative to others (Mann, S., 1998)

The industrial market typically uses a more generally accepted classical definition. (Gartner Groups Analyst, Fenn, J. Personal Communication, 1999, Jul 27). "Wearable computer are light and compact belt-mounted PC, typically offering speech input and a headmounted or pocket-sized screens. Systems also incorporate functions such as two-way video and global positioning." (Gartners Group Strategic Analysis Report, 1997)

Sutherland created the first computer-based head-mounted (HMD) display and soon after that Bell Helicopter began experimenting with HMD. (Rhodes, B., 1998). Wearable computer have come a long way since these early efforts. This year Stanford University Wearable Computing Laboratory managed to fit all of the software required to drive the worldwide web server into a computer the size of a matchbox. (Houlder, V., 1999) This typed of technology improvement has made it feasible to produce useful, unobtrusive wearable computers and technology companies are beginning to show an interest.


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