Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education



Front Page

World

UK

UK Politics

Business

Sci/Tech

Health

Education

Sport

Entertainment

Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Archive
Feedback
Low Graphics
Help

Friday, April 30, 1999 Published at 18:13 GMT 19:13 UK


Sci/Tech

Future gadgets get mixed reaction

The CyberPhone projects a virtual screen

The ceaseless march of miniaturisation in electronics presents engineers with ever-increasing ways of combining gadgets.


Sarah Vauxhall investigates the latest concepts
IBM has unveiled its vision of the future which includes mobile telephones with full Internet access through virtual screens and a wearable computer controlled by your voice.

But the public's reaction is as mixed as it was for the first mobile telephones and personal stereos, for example.

IBM have produced a prototype of a wearable computer called VisionPad. The processor is housed in a cigarette-box-sized case. It is controlled using voice-recognition software and viewed through a small screen mounted on a head set.


[ image: The VisionPad is hard to miss]
The VisionPad is hard to miss
It certainly looks odd and when the BBC asked Londoners for their opinion, its appearance was a common thread: "If everyone was doing it, it would be normal. But now, it looks silly."

Others were not enthused by the idea of being constantly wired: "I'd rather be detached from my computer a good deal of the time."

However, some were attracted: "If it was cheap enough it would be a good idea."

IBM's CyberPhone received a more positive reaction. This mobile telephone concept has a miniature projection display built into the flip-out cover of the handset. When the gadget is held to the ear, the projector creates a virtual image which looks like an 11 inch screen.


John Karidis on designing the future
Users can surf the Net using their voice and a thumb-operated track-point.

But designing the devices of the future is not just about packing in as much as possible, says John Karidis, an IBM engineer.

IBM have a concept called WatchPad, in which a slim watch has a high-resolution screen which is the interface for a personal digital organiser and a pager.

"But trying to pack in Net access and telephone communication would mean it becomes like a hockey puck strapped to your wrist, which isn't very attractive," says Dr Karadis.

"If you combine too many functions you get products which do all things badly, rather than one or two things well," he says.

"There will be a lot of big ideas in the next few years and there will be a lot of big flops too," thinks Karadis. "But companies are going to have to experiment by bringing things to market to see how people react."



Advanced options | Search tips




Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©


Sci/Tech Contents


Relevant Stories

30 Apr 99 | Sci/Tech
Landmark Net deal for UK

18 Mar 99 | Sci/Tech
IE5 is the same but different

13 Mar 99 | e-cyclopedia
Our decade: The 90s and cyberspace





Internet Links


IBM


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.




In this section

World's smallest transistor

Scientists join forces to study Arctic ozone

Mathematicians crack big puzzle

From Business
The growing threat of internet fraud

Who watches the pilots?

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer