September 30, 2005

Laptop Fuel Cell (by this xmas)

Fuel cells are a technology I've long been waiting for. Wearable computing, as well as portable electronics are dependent on power, and nobody likes lugging around heavy batteries. Now it looks like the technology is going to be commercialized within the year.
LG Chem's fuel cell can power a 25W notebook computer for more than 10 hours on 200cc of methanol. Users in remote locations without electricity can simply swap out an empty cartridge for a full one and continue to work for another 10 hours. The fuel cell itself has a working life of more than 4,000 hours (approx 400 cycles) which is 8 times longer than similar products from rival companies, according to LG Chem.

The global demand for portable fuel cells in 2006 is estimated to reach US$600 million, rising to US$1.9 billion by 2010.

From the photo, the fuel cell doesn't look small, but I also remember when a gigabyte drive felt like a brick.

[ Link via Epia Center ]

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September 29, 2005

Power Conversion Fabric


Two companies are joining up to build "Power Conversion Fabric", textitles that can generate power like solar cells.

Konarka Technologies, Inc., an innovator in developing and commercializing Power Plastic‘ that converts light to energy, and Textronics, Inc., a pioneer in the field of electronic textiles, today announced a joint development program to create prototype garments and fashion accessories with portable, wearable power-generation capabilities. The technology will utilize Konarka’s light-activated Power Plastic‘ and Textronics’ electronic textile systems to provide renewable, wearable energy sources for personal electronic devices.

[ Link to press release. Found via article posted to the wear-hard mailing list ]

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September 28, 2005

Wearable Computers for Disaster Relief

The University of South Australia are developing wearable computers with augemented vision for disaster relief, like that of the recent hurricanes in Louisiana and Florida.


Flooding in New Orleans

"If particular experts aren’t available in the disaster area, they can direct field staff from the control center. For example, suppose a chemical plant is required to be shut down, an expert in the control center can view the situation via the field operative’s wearable technology, and give directions to the field staff on how to close the plant, even circling which lever to operate in the field operative’s view through the goggles," Thomas said.

The project consists of three components: the indoor visualization control room, the outdoor wearable AR system, and collaboration between the indoor and outdoor systems.

They claim that there is nothing else on the market that is comparable, and the only similar projects are the University of Columbia's "MARS" and the US Naval Research Lab's "BARS". Since I can't properly evaluate their work, I really don't understand why they believe their product is so radically different. In any case, they will be demoing it at SEARCC 2005, which is going on today, tomorrow, and Friday in Sydney, Australia.

[ Link ]

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September 27, 2005

New NYC2123 Comic Out


New NYC2133 comic out. This one looks as good as the first!

[ Link ]

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September 26, 2005

"Alcohol Makes My Liver Convulse"


[ Link via warren ellis ]

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September 25, 2005

Mo Robot


[ Link via flickr ]

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Robostix: Robotic Gumstix


I found this neat robotics kit from the Gumstix people called the Robostix, which I think would be a neat toy to hack with.

They have this pack called the robostix-bt pack which includes a gumstix with bluetooth, a robostix, a serial null-modem cable, a tweener (for debugging?), which all looks fairly decent and is selling for $226.

The robostix expansion board exposes 6 PWM Channels (2x8 bit, 6 programmable), 8 A/D, 24 GPIO, 2 UART at logic levels and an in-system programming port. The Atmega128 has 5V logic. robostix offers three power inputs: V-RoboBatt, V_Power and V-Motor. The connectors use industry-standard 0.1 inch spacing and, if wanted, the robostix board connects to the 60-pin hirose connector available on the gumstix basix and connex platforms. robostix may also be used stand-alone.

Designers seeking bluetooth wireless networking can use robostix with
either the basix platform or the connex platform now. For projects
seeking higher speed wireless connectivity, robostix and the gumstix
connex platform may be connected to the cfstix expansion board, which
offers a compact flash adapter that may be driven by a wide range of
WiFi compact flash cards.

[ Link via del ]

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September 24, 2005

Baby Geniuses


Lovely picture.

[ Link ]

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Laser Target Tracking


Hot on the heels of my last post which dealt with target acquisition for pelting younger brothers with airsoft pellets, another group is doing much more sophesticated development on laser based target tracking. The main goals of their project isn't so much to target guns, but to do things like facilicilate gesture tracking. Gesture tracking is pretty cool because it potentially turns your fingers into a sophesticatd mouse, much like you may have seen in the film, "Minority Report". I could go on, but really you should check out their movies demoing their research, which is quite impressive: High Rez / Low Rez.
The problem of tracking hands and fingers on natural scenes has received much attention using passive acquisition vision systems and computationally intense image processing. We are currently studying a simple active tracking system using a laser diode (visible or invisible light), steering mirrors, and a single non-imaging photodetector, which is capable of acquiring three dimensional coordinates in real time without the need of any image processing at all. Essentially, it is a smart rangefinder scanner that instead of continuously scanning over the full field of view, restricts its scanning area, on the basis of a real-time analysis of the backscattered signal, to a very narrow window precisely the size of the target.

Really, go check out Ishikawa-Namiki Laboratory's video showing the lasers tracking two fingers and a bouncing ball... pretty cool to see in work.

[ Link via del ]

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September 22, 2005

Sentry Turret


Well, it isn't wearable, but dammit, I want one.

The idea of this project was to create a fully-automated sentry gun, capable of picking out a human target and accurately tracking and shooting him or her in the heart. Really, the idea was to find a cool robotics project for the summer while I was working at an advertising agency, and I'd only ever seen sentry guns in movies (like Congo) and video games (Half-Life 1, Half-Life 2, Team Fortress Classic). I couldn't find any record of anyone building one, even the military, although it seems likely I just didn't look hard enough. It's a pretty simple technology.

I've been meaning to build one of these myself. I have a paintball gun, servos, and a servo controller. I really need to stop slacking and get hacking.

[ Link via boing boing ]

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WristPC and the iFrog Keyboards


The WristPC is a cool mini-keyboard for wearable computing, but in a lot of ways I can't imagine it being very useful, unless you have tiny fingers or something. It would be stylin' if you're going for the cyborg look though, especially as they sell a backlit version for $349. The cheapest WristPC is $249, which isn't backlit, and in plastic. If you want an aluminum version, it's $479 and $579 for the backlit one. All models come in PS/2 and USB, and they sell an optional wrist strap, which I hope isn't necessary in order to actually wear the WristPC.


Considering the tinyness of the keys and the price point, I'd probably go with the bluetooth or USB iFrog which is selling at TekGear for $175.

[ Link via del ]

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Mystery Photo


I have a PDF that goes along with this mockup image, but I'd like to see what others think it is.

Clue: It's called "Aetherspace".

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September 21, 2005

Eyetop HMD with Camera


The Eyetop Camera is an Head Mounted Display with a 752x582 resolution video camera on the side. It uses PAL/NTSC and gets 25 frames a second.

Eyetop Camera incorporates a professional rugged aluminum video camera and LED system into the frame of the best-selling Eyetop Classic ‘video glasses.’ .You can film what you see and control it with the monitor embedded in the lens of the glasses, or even get another set of information on that high-quality active matrix LCD screen from any external video source.

Okay so at this point, you're probably like me, drooling on your keyboard, wondering what members of your family you can sell into slavery in order to get one of these. Well that's where Nicolas from Eyneo comes in:

That product was for sale at $4,000+ and is out of stock now. It will be replaced with a new version at far lower price point first semester 06. Price unknown today. Thanks, nicolas

Well I guess my family members and girlfriend are safe... for now.

[ Link ]

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September 19, 2005

Blinding Surveillance Cameras

A friend of mine was just telling me about a wearable device that Steve Mann made to try to prevent surveillance cameras from photographing him, and coincidently, there's a CNet article on a similar project with the same goal:

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have come up with an inexpensive way to prevent digital cameras and digital video cameras from capturing that secret shot.

The technology they've devised detects the presence of a digital camera up to 33 feet away and can then shoot a targeted beam of light at the lens, according to Shwetak Patel, a grad student at the university and one of the lead researchers on the project.

I know their approach is more than slightly flawed, but oh how the tables are turning...

[ Link via /. ]

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September 17, 2005

CyKey: New Chorded Keyboard


New chorded keyboard called CyKey. It's wireless and can be used with a Palm or PC, but doesn't use Bluetooth, so I asume it's like those wireless mice. The dimensions are 125mm x 80mm x 6.5mm, pretty small. Not having used it though, I'm a bit waary about it's performance. I still have a lot of respect for the Twiddler, even though it makes you contort your fingers a bit.

Price: 60 - 90 pounds ($108 - $163 USD), depending on what package you get.

[ Link via del ]

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DIY Wearable LED Display

Leah Buechley has made a very cool wearable LED display, that besides looking brilliant, can play the Game of Life! You know you've always wanted to play with conductive thread, or at least I have. My girlfriend is slowly working on a plaid skirt that I'd love to put LEDs on the bottom fringe.
design 1. Pick a garment to sew on, a pattern that will let you sew your own garment, or design your own pattern.

2. Design your display. decide on the number of LEDs you want and their general placement. This will depend on the garment you chose and the microcontroller you intend to use as well as how you'd like the display to look. I decided to sew a simple tank top and I chose to place the LEDs evenly across my tank top every 2". Since my tank top is approximately 28" around and 12" tall I needed 84 LEDs.

3. Decide on the microcontroller you want to use. Choose one with an internal oscillator, and make sure you have enough i/o pins to control your matrix. It's a good idea to pick a microcontroller you are familiar with and read the data sheet carefully! It can take some reading to discover that what you thought was a general purpose I/O pin is input only or an open drain output.

4. Decide on the power-source you want to use.

Very cool, I'd like to see more projects like this.

[ Link via del ]

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September 15, 2005

Xbernaut About to Become Xyber-Not

Xybernaut looks like it's about to become no more. Sad news for some readers I expect. Hopefully a larger company like Apple will eventually start catering to this market.

Xybernaut Corporation (Pink Sheet: XYBR.PK) announced that Company management met this week with and outlined several options to the newly formed Equity Committee in the Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The options generally involve plans for the reorganization of the Company and/or the orderly marketing of its intellectual properties and other assets. It is the overarching objective of both the Company and the Equity Committee to provide as much value as possible to the Company's shareholders. Together, the Company and the Equity Committee intend to chart a course in furtherance of their shared goals. There can be no assurance, however, that any of these options or the Company's restructuring efforts will be successful.

Brian wrote on the wear-hard mailing list:

Honestly I think their problems started when they couldn't get the price down nor the marketing to make wearables and began trying to compete in the tablet arena instead.

If they had stuck with making a real, feasable (affordable, usable) wearable system they could have cornered the (tiny) market and survived.

THEN the management problems came up.

Things certainly look tough, but maybe it's time for Xybernaut to pass the tourch to some other, more innovative company.

[ Link via the wear-hard mailing list ]

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Wild Planet Night Vision Toy

Here's a review of WildPlanet's "Infra-Red Nightvision Goggles". I had seen these before, but after trying out the "Eye-Link Communicators" from the same company and being a bit disapointed, I wasn't about to go spend $80 on another potentially too small, not useful enough wearable computing spy toy. I then read about this other guy who is currently hacking his, and it sounds somewhat promising!

I recently purchased one of [the IR Nightvision Goggles]. From what research I've done so far, it is a pretty good candidate for hacking into a fairly low-end eyetap/wearable display.

Comfort-wise, it's not great, but it is a lot better than the Cybermaxx displays from days of old. There are plenty of spots here more padding could be attached to make it more comfortable. The batteries are in a belt pack, and the headpiece connects to them via what looks like a standard power connector.

The camera is fixed-focus, and is surrounded by a ring of IR LEDs. These cannot be turned off without modifying the device or turning the whole thing off. They tend to wash out the view in normal indoor lighting conditions, but only in a spot in the middle.

The display itself appears to be a kopin cyberdisplay with a yellow-green LED backlight. The backlight is a surface mount LED on its own small PCB behind the display, so replacing it with something a bit less bilious is fairly simple.

Tekgear sells a white LED backlight ( for 28
that might fit. I haven't tried it.

The driver chip is a MCVVQ111, apparently the FB version. According to other posts on [the wear-hard list]:

"MCVVQ111FB is a MOS8 device MOS8 has already closed down. MCVVQ111AFB is MOS20 device and is a replacement for MCVVQ111FB.[...] Please note that the loop filter of MCVVQ111AFB on pin 7 is different from that of MCVVQ111FB."

According to freescale semiconductor:

" The MCVVQ111 VirtuoVue Monochrome Video Display is designed to accept a standard monochrome video signal (525 or 625 lines), and convert it for display on the CyberDisplay320 LCD Display Panel. [...] A separate OSD input is provided."

The camera in the night vision monocle is on a separate board from the display driver chip. They are connected by a four pin cable that includes power, ground, and (I assume) video signal and video ground. At any rate, there is not another chip to render a proprietary signal into standard video, so I assume that the camera outputs standard video. I'll be checking into this over the next week or so.

There are at least two ways you could make this into an eyetap.

The first is by disconnecting the video output from the camera, routing it to a computer, doing some processing, and then sending it back to the display board. This is probably better, as it would allow some scaling of the image to match what the other eye sees. As manufactured, the image on the display is smaller than life, so the effect is somewhat like looking through a telescope backwards with one eye while having the other eye open.

The second is by hooking into the OSD connections of the cyberdisplay driver chip and using the built-in OSD input. This is probably less optimal, as you would need to hook up an OSD generator, connect to a very tiny pin on the chip, etc.

Of course, if you don't want an eyetap, then you still have a very small display, driver board, and camera with IR LEDs, all for ~$80.

I hope it works out well!

[ Link via the wear-hard mailing list ]

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September 13, 2005

Steve Mann Interview: Domewear and Sousveillance


I recently interviewed Cyborg, Steve Mann regarding the CFP conference, Domewear , and "Maybe Cameras". Mann's work revolves primarly around cameras, and inverse surveillance, or in his words, "Sousveillance", and wearable computing. To see more pictures from the CFP conference, like the one above, check out Mann's photo album. I wish I could have been there to see what it was like to have hundreds of maybecameras around everywhere.

You recently distributed 500 identical domewear units for ACM (Association of Computing Machinery)'s CFP conference. What was the reaction of attendees?

The actual streaming of live video from some of the units created an interesting reaction, especially one of curiosity as to which of the domes were transmitting. In a way this reversed the Panopticon model from one of never knowing whether or not we are being watched, to one of never knowing whether or not we were doing the watching.
What other kinds of domewear units have you made?
I designed and built a number of various kinds of maybecameras, Steve Mann, ``"Reflectionism" and "Diffusionism": New Tactics for Deconstructing the Video Surveillance Superhighway'' Volume 31, Issue 2 / April 1998, pp 93-102, as well as in Steve Mann, ``Existential Technology'', Leonardo 36(1), 2003, pp19-26 (The second paper was given the 2004 Leonardo Award for Excellence).

Do you have any plans for DIY domewear or maybecameras?

Mann and Family wearing "Maybecamera" Sweatshirts
The first article (above), Leonardo Volume 31, Issue 2 / April 1998, pp 93-102 describes some simple instructions for people to make their own maybecameras.

A number of people have successfully followed these directions for making the systems. For example, Dr. Stefanos Pantagis, a physician in New York, built 25 of them and gave them out to artists, such as blind poets, in New York, as a further extension of "Shooting Blind" projects.

What kinds of experiences have you and your students had while wearing domewear units?

There have been a wide variety of experiences. You can interpret the experiences on a couple of different levels. On a 20th century "us-versus-them" level, "What's good for the goose is good for the gangster", and collective sousveillance helps to strike a balance with collective surveillance. In a more "Howard Rheingold" kind of perspective, we're all just working together to reduce crime. One day a person may be a cab driver putting his or her passengers under surveillance, but the next day that same person may be a passenger in somebody else's cab. So we drift back and forth in our various roles as surveillers and the surveilled. Therefore we likewise drift back and forth in our roles as sousveillers and the sousveilled. In this sense the experiences we've had may either be read as balanced, or as cooperative. You can read about my experiences in more detail in the popular culture book "Cyborg...".

Do people generally recognize the devices, or do you find yourself explaining what they are?

It's amazing how people are so blind to surveillance, it's like the domes are invisible. Because they're so ubiquitous, people don't see them. Sometimes I put a TV screen or other video display on the clothing, so people see their own reflection on TV and that gets quite a stronger sense of Reflectionism. The TV acts like a mirror like what you see at the entrance to a shop or mall where they hang a TV from the ceiling with a "no shoplifting" sign. With the TV, no explanation is required.

To purchase Domewear units yourself, visit the EXISTech store. I also highly recommend Steve Mann's book, "Cyborg..." if you are interested in this kind of work.

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September 09, 2005

Mouse Grows Back Limbs

LH mice.JPG
Ellen Heber-Katz, professor of immunology at the Wistar Institute, an American biomedical research centre has created a mouse that regenerates amputated limbs or badly damaged organs. Imagine the potential possibility for human regeneration.
The experimental animal is unique among mammals in its ability to regrow its heart, toes, joints and tail.

The researchers have also found that when cells from the test mouse are injected into ordinary mice, they too acquire the ability to regenerate.

The discoveries raise the prospect that humans could one day be given the ability to regenerate lost or damaged organs, opening up a new era in medicine.

Now there's a medical trial that would be exciting, however dangerous it might be.

[ Link via del ]

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Power Walking


I won't go into much detail since this was covered on Slashdot already, but basically it's a backpack that generates up to 7 watts of energy by walking around. Only problem is that it weighs 40lbs to 80lbs aparently.

Ob Snow Crash reference (Score:5, Funny) by richie2000 (159732) on Friday September 09, @05:43AM (#13517202)

- You're a gargoyle [].

[ Link to CNN article via Boing Boing ]

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September 07, 2005

Covert Eyetap For Sale



Someone's selling their covert head mounted display. Might be worth getting since most of the commercial HMDs out there are so geeky.

I am willing to sell this prototype for $1200, I will include documentation of my previous efforts as well as an upgrade that I never went through with (that gives more eye clearance and moves the screen closer to the center of your vision by relocated the connector board using spare hirose connectors that eMagin is willing to supply at about $3 each).

Keep in mind that this display is a true 800x600 pixel 24 bit color display.

This prototype gets its signal from a VGA cable. And it gets power from any USB

For this kind of cash though, I'd probably make sure you can get your money back if it isn't what you want.

[ Link via the wear-hard mailing list ]

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September 06, 2005

Twiddler Typing Tutor


Thad E. Starner and his students just released a cool java app to acompany HandyKey's Twiddler 2, which is probably the best keyboard for people with wearables since it also acts as a mouse and only takes up one hand. The application teaches multi-character chords, supports both the default keymap and custom keymaps, measures speed in words per minute, and measures average error rate. According to their experiments, they say it can take a novice from 0 to 20 WPM in about two weeks with 20 minutes a day. People are also topping out at about 60 WPM.

Folks- My students have completed their work on the Twiddler keyboard evaluations and have made a Twiddler tutor (Twidor) to get people up to speed quickly. This tutor really has a lot of thought put into it and its concepts have proven to be pretty successful (see the papers linked from the web site). Hmm...we should probably still shoot a quick video showing how to (and not to) hold the Twiddler. Hope people find the Twidor useful!


Seems that this is just the kind of thing to really get the wearable community getting larger adoption. HandyKey should send this application out with every Twiddler they sell, and try to improve upon it!

[ Link via the wear-hard mailing list ]

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