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Monday, 21 January, 2002, 08:47 GMT
Prêt-à-porter computers
Xybernaut President Edward Newman
Newman: Next generation of computing
Alfred Hermida

Walking down the street with a small computer attached to your head may sound like something out of Star Trek. But you can already order such a product and have it in your hands by March.

The Xybernaut company has developed a wearable computer called Poma, which lets you check your e-mail, listen to music or play games while on the move.

What you're talking about is the next generation of wireless and computing, integrated on the body

Edward Newman, Xybernaut
"What you have here is a head-mounted display that has the same resolution and imagery that you would see if you were looking at a desktop monitor," said Edward Newman, Xybernaut president.

"The only difference is that the headset weighs three ounces (85 grams)," he told BBC News Online. "You don't need a separate cell phone, you don't need a separate pager, you don't need a MP3 player, you don't need all those devices anymore.

"What you're talking about is the next generation of wireless and computing, integrated on the body."

All-in-one computer

The Poma is a cross between a desktop computer, a handheld and a mobile phone. It is part of a trend in the industry to come up with products that would let people use computers any way, at any time.

The Xybernaut Poma computer
Fully functioning computer
Companies are scrambling to find the perfect all-in-one product that does the most stuff in the smallest package.

With the Poma, you get a small computer about the size of a paperback book and a one-inch colour head-mounted display. The machine is operated via a handheld optical mouse.

"It's the future of computing and communications," said Mr Newman.

A product like this does not come cheap, with the Poma selling for US$1,499. In the future, Xybernaut believes wearable computers will become commonplace.

"You'll have some of our displays integrated into your lenses of glasses, you'll be wearing them in your sunglasses, mounted in caps and hats," said Mr Newman.

Seeing clearly

Despite the diminutive size of the screen, its proximity to the eye makes it appear as large as a 15-inch (38 centimetres) desktop display.

Poma details
128MHz Risc processor
32MB Ram, 32MB Rom
Windows CE operating system
640 x 480 colour display
Optimal pointing device
But Xybernaut have made sure the screen does not get in the way of seeing your way around by using a transparent display.

This lets you see past the screen and focus on the area around you. So by changing your focus, you can either see the computer screen or look through it.

"We've taken a lot of care from our military experience to make sure you don't obstruct any of your peripheral vision," said Mr Newman.

The computer unit, manufactured by Hitachi, runs on Microsoft Windows CE operating system. Weighing just over 10 ounces (280 grams), it has two expansion slots so that you can add a wireless modem, a portable hard drive or a wearable keyboard.

Edward Newman
The next generation of wireless and computing
See also:

09 Nov 00 | Sci/Tech
Wear the parts on your sleeve
04 May 00 | Sci/Tech
Computers as clothes
30 Dec 00 | Sci/Tech
Clothes that do the thinking
27 Nov 01 | Education
Football shirt with on-board computer
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