Wearable Computers - links and comments

Wearable computers are the next geek fashion statement.

This is the way general purpose computers have to eventually go. Not as a cyborg like the Borg in StarTrek, but as ubiquitous computing, hidden from view, but present and available everywhere you go.

MIT and others have been working on them for a fair while. Charmed technology want to make them a fashion item, rather than a geek item.

This is a placeholder file, mentioning some companies working in the area. Real Soon Now I'll add an article.

Science News v156 20 Nov 1999 pp330-332 had an article about Bradley Rhodes (borg since 30 May 1996), Thad Starner, one of the first MIT Media Lab cyborgs and now at Georgia Institute of Technology, with photos of Steve Mann rigs from early 1990 and then the more discrete 1999.

Head mounted displays as at the end of 2000 start at about US$1000 and up, and are low resolution, about 200,000 pixels. They are available for portable DVD players from Sony, Canon and Olympus.

Minimum Specifications for displays

Resolution 800x600 (SVGA) but XGA would be better. 32 degree viewing angle. 32,000 colours. 20 foot lambert luminance. 60 frames refresh rate. Aperture ratio 80%. Eye relief 20mm. Exit pupil 8mm. Eyebox 12mm. Power 1 watt. Wearable weight not over 100 grams.

Cell Computing

Their P200 CardPC has most motherboard functions in a 3.4 c 2.1 x 0.5 inch package. Onboard graphics controller is CRT and LCD compatible. US$899 in 1000 off. http://www.cellcomputing.com

Command Marketing Inc

They sell Dauphin technology DTR-2 portable computers around $3500. Heads Up Vision Glasses around $2500. Custom packages for wireless, voice recognition. Contact CMI at 2105 Bonner Lane, Spring Grove IL 60081 ph 815 675 6498


Has a industrial SXGA with 12-mm pixels and a 15.3 by 12.3mm active area. OLED does 256 gray at 60 Hz and consumes 360mW at 200 candelas/m2 Uses low voltage differential signalling for interconnect.

Essex University

Interesting location services trialed at their wearable site http://wearables.essex.ac.uk/

Futaba Corp

Futaba at Chiba City, Japan demonstrated a direct view 640x480 field emision display at the SID '99 in San Jose. Dot pitch is 0.23mm, contrast 40:1, luminance 200cd/m2. Power consumption is however a whopping 6 watts (1999). FEDs also have poor yields, and high costs.

IBM Personal Area Network

MIT's Media Lab developed it. Data exchange by capacitively coupled picoamp currents from nearby electronic devices via the natural salinity of the body. IBM did a Microchip PIC driven prototype. Detector has a high gain current amplifier, followed by an analog bipolar chopper. The detector integrates the 330 kHz 50 pA displacement current into a voltage suited to the PIC's A/D converter. The transmitter is an LC tank circuit with a Q of six fed by the transmit 5V square wave to produce a 30V peak to peak sine wave. Processor software pulse width modulates the transmit signal. See IBM Systems Journal Vol 35, 1996.

InViso eShade

Binocular head mounted display looks like sunglasses. Like 19 inch display at two and a half feet. They have a 35mm eye relief, 36mm diagonal display apature. 12mm eye box, so you can glance outside the 34 degree field of view.

Kent Displays

Cholesteric LCD for a military electronic book, in conjunction with Honeywell and ARPA. Expected to run 12 hours a day for six weeks, using a 6.3 inch 4096 colour VGA display. Try info@kentdisplays.com

Kopin Head Mounted Displays

Kopin have a 640x480 VGA monocular monochromatic display with a 32 degree field of view. Accepts standard VGA, needs 12 volt power, and weights 14 ounches including cable. A optional four hour battery kit is available. About $3000 in 1996. They have a binocular 800x600 SVGA colour display weighing 32 ounces, for simulation and virtual reality applications. Kopin have been making high resolution small format LCD displays since 1993, and have sizes from 640x480 to 2560x2048. Their subsidary Forte market head mounted systems for the games market. Kopin are at 695 Myles Standish Blvd, Taunton MA 02780 508 824 6698.

Kopin sell a microdisplay viewfinder for camcorders, with lower power consumption than traditional displays. www.kopin.com


Awarded a "best of What's New" by Popular Science in 1999 for their one ounce "invisible monitor" clip-on display for glasses. Gives a 320x240 pixel 16 colour display, over about 10 degrees of the field of view, at a 60 Hz refresh. Model C-1. Standard DB-15 connector. 100mW for the display alone. Also EG-6C in VGA colour. Formerly http://www.microoptical.org


Seattle company working on direct projection into the eye heads up displays in 1996. Technology from University of Washington Human Interface Technology Lab. Funding levels at present unknown.

MIT Media Lab

Home of cyborgs www.media.mit.edu


Working with Gemplus on a viewer called Vituo Vue.

Philips Flat Display Systems

Co-development deal with Hana MicroDisplay Technologes Inc of Ohio. Six liquid crystal on silicon displays are planned, first a 0.97 inch XGA 1024x768 being sampled in May 2000. Colorado MicroDisplay are using HMTI as a supplier for a 0.47 inch 800x600 display. MicroDisplay Corp of San Pablo are doing a twin SVGA headset for portable DVD players for Daeyang of Korea, who plan a US$900 price.

Phoenix Hummingbird

Wearable 486 in 1997. VGA heads up display.

Planar Systems Inc, Beaverton Ore.

MicroBrite active matrix electroluminiscent display 1280x1024, measures 0.75 inch diagonally, weighs 3 gram. Contrast ratio 500:1, brightness 800fL at 1.3 watt, or 75fL in low power 0.3 watt version. 60 Hz refresh. 128 gray scale video. Cost and power requirements are relatively high.


Rockwell Trekker 2020 wearable hands free Pentium, about $10,000. 120 MHz 1.2GB hard drive, 16 MB ram, Motorola 56000 DSP to assist the speech input. Rockwell are at http://www.cacd.rockwell.com, Speech system are http://www.speechsys.com, and the 640 by 480 monochrome VGA heads up display is by Kopin. They are selling it for use in areas where users need hands free access to large quantities of complex data, such as aircraft maintenance.


G4 line of 1/4 VGA (320x240) LCDs, viewing area 79x60mm and 0.24 dot pitch 8:1 contrast STN, at $66 each/1000

Sony Glasstron

1997 head mounted frame with two 17.5mm LCD displays each of 180,000 pixels. Image appears about 2 metres in front of eyes. Power box generates the display signal. Intended for children and games. Two hours use from Li-Ion rechargeable (designed to match movie length). About 350 lines horizontal, 300 vertical. Japanese price around A$1000 in 1997.

ViA Wearable

Size and shape of a two piece belt pack. Two PCMCIA slots (one for hard drive), 75 MHz 486 or AMD 586, Phoenix bios, audio for speech recognition, two comms ports, mouse and keyboard ports, VGA compatible video of CRT or LCD display. Runs off a Duracell DR-30b 7.2 volt NiMH rechargeable or optional 12 volt adaptor. Optional peripherals include audio headset, small keyboard, LCD display, head mounted VGA display, hand held VGA display. Computer assembly is about three pounds, with largest dimensions 9" x 5" x 1.1". I saw this one at Comdex 1996. Check http://www.FlexiPC.com

The VIA II uses a 180 MHz Cyrix Windows PC and costs US$3257 (1998)

Wearable Industry

Wearable industry site. http://www.wearablecomputing.com


Another company working on wearables. Pretty advanced. Mobile Assistant IV uses a 266 MHz Pentium MMX with a 640 x 480 full colour head mounted LCD display. www.xybernaut.com

Wearcam Steve Mann

Steve Mann's wearable gear wearcam.org/shootingback.html
buy that?
pda list

ericlindsay.com -> palmtop -> wearable

Contact webmaster