December 31, 2008

Wearable Computing @ 25C3


Via Hackaday, the 25th Chaos Communication Congress's Wearable Computing and Solar Power presentations roused me from blog hibernation to say Happy Holidays and please don't text and drive. For abstracts, lecture notes, slides, and links, you too can veer off; About Cyborgs and Gargoyles:State of the Art in Wearable Computing, and Solar-powering your Geek Gear: Alternative and mobile power for all your little toys.

New Year's greetings from under a rock. No, I haven't been in the desert lately, but I have been in other realms. I've been getting into some high voltage shenanigans, the splendid forums at Cyberpunk Review, back into microcontrollers with the Seeeduino, interfacing it with Pure Data, and touring exhibition and interactive design. 2009 is looking to be hacktastic, but more on that next year.

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June 26, 2008

My N430


This is the work I exhibited at Maker Faire this Spring. I've been hacking my Archos PMA-430 into wearable computer prototypes for 2 years, and hacking my Nokia N95 for about 9 months. The top image shows a video feed from my Nokia to my Archos, while the image below it shows the unhoused wiring that adds functionality such as USB connectivity and power.

Systems integration is designed for field-reconfigurability and use of ubiquitous technologies such as USB ports and ethernet or phone cables. I can charge both devices from AC, my motorcycle, its solar panel, or even a random computer in any number of libraries, cafes, etc. The two devices link up through a retractable 8-conductor ethernet cable, although I can use a multitude of available cords. The green terminal blocks allow field connections without soldering, since I believe the universal connector is bare wire if no adaptors are nearby.

I have hundreds of images of my work, and lots to write about, so there will be much more ahead. Just a Heads-Up.

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March 18, 2008

Introducing: My Technomadism Hacks

I haven't been posting much, but I have been researching, developing, rapid prototyping, and hacking. I'm applying my love of desert camping, travel, wearable technology, and embedded computing to my urban flagship; a duosport motorcycle. Here's a first look:

This photo shows items I transformed into a top case and a tank bag.

While commuting, the top case can hold gear from errands. While touring, it can carry as much gas a my tank holds plus water. I can remove it anytime. This allows off-roading without extra fuel sloshing around in an enlarged tank. It is made from an LP case, and stability tests will determine if it's indeed more versatile than a top case and replacement gas tank; easily at a savings of at least $200.

The tank bag is made from a folding map case, magnets, and wiring. It's appropriate that it holds my phone with GPS, a non-networked highway infrastructure computer, compass and pencil pack, map, and a solar battery charger for my bike and auuxilliary device battery. I'm sure it'll still also hold an actual paper map or two. I can't find many tank bags with top map pockets that will fit my sloped gas tank. So, I made a form-fitting one that mostly multplies the functionality of the feature I wanted most anyway; a large map pocket.

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August 25, 2006

FluxBits: Wearable game interfaces

In the traditional type of gaming experience a designer designs the type of experience that player will have. FluxBits are wearable game interfaces that transform objects around into controls for the game you are playing. Meta controllers such as FluxBits allow for an Open Design approach to gaming, where traditional gaming doesn't.

For instance, you could use a clip board as a steering wheel for a driving game or an umbrella as a joy stick. It's completely up to the user. FluxBits are worn on the person and accompany the individual through out the day, enabling game play to take place where ever the user wants. The individual FluxBit pieces form an ad-hoc network, communicating with a central mobile device, which would be used as the display during game play.

fluxbits5.jpgFluxBits translates the movement of the object into directions for the video game and sends this to the display device. Here the player is using a bus strap to play Pac-Man with her Nintendo DS.

Once someone has used an object, they can mark the object with a sticker to indicate to other players how it might be turned into a game interface. Example: A player puts a FluxBit sticker on a bus strap, indicating where a FluxBit can be attached for playing. Also, each sticker that is attached to an object has associated with it a scorecard, listing who has played here and their hi-score. This scorecard is accessed with a mobile phone, using a tracking ID or RFID tag on the sticker itself. When players find a sticker, they can see who has played there and what are the hi-scores to beat. By playing a game at this location, the player’s own records are updated on the scorecard. Dedicated players can request a map of the city with tagged gaming locations and spend a day seeking out these locations to play.

There are more possibilities here in terms of the form of these FluxBits. But the developer is satisfied right now with rather abstract images of the fashion accessory handcuff.

Right now prototypes exist as hardware clamps:


Here is a video of the FluxBits being used in it's prototype phase:

[ Link ]

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July 18, 2006

Interactive Gloves


I just love this photo. I found a video of someone playing music with a data glove as well. Wonder if data gloves will ever rise again in the world of technology. I sure want one, especially if it looks all sci-fi like this.

[ Link via flickr ]

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April 13, 2006

Nintendo Power Glove Flashback


Remember this? Talk about retro.. this is one of the largely unsuccessful controllers for the Nintendo, which was based on the VPL Dataglove. If you wanted one of these, you can still get them, although unless you want to use the buttons, it's probably not going to be a great input device for your next project.

[ Link ]

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April 04, 2006

Woman gets Cyborg Eyes

Cheri Robertson, self proclaimed "Robo-Chick" recently got surgery to allow her to see, even though previously she was blind.
Neurosurgeon Kenneth Smith, M.D., of Saint Louis University School of Medicine, said the procedure is the first to reverse blindness in patients without eyes. "They are really seeing. The brain is getting impulses just like when you and I see."
A camera on the tip of Robertson's glasses sends signals to a computer that's strapped around her waist. The computer then stimulates electrodes in the brain through a cord that attaches to the head. Patients see flashes of light and outlines of objects.

"Whatever I see is just two splashes of light, so I know something is there," Robertson says. She admits support from her mom and the local Lion's Club keeps her spirits high. "If I was all depressed, I couldn't affect anybody's life for the good, and I want to make a difference." Friends, family and doctors say she already has.

The surgery is not yet performed in the United States, but Dr. Smith said he hopes it will be in the next five years. The main safety concern is an infection where the port goes into the head. For the surgery to work, patients must have once had vision.

[ Link (with a video) via del ]

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April 03, 2006

Weirdest Keybords Evar


Based on this article called "The Top 10 weirdest keyboards ever" the public might not be ready for wearable computers just yet. The author slams the wrist keyboard, the frogpad, and the Twiddler, all without one mention of wearable computers. Jesus, it may be weird if you're sitting at a desktop trying to use a Twiddler, but it's really not that weird if you're on the subway or in line at the bank. Just consider this descripton of the frogpad:

The frogpad is a tiny, tiny keyboard - or it would be more suitable to call it a keypad actually. The manufacturer say that you can get up to 40 words per minute if you practice between 6 to 10 hours with it. Any idea why they are calling it a frogpad?

Absolutely no mention of mobile, ubiquitious, or wearable computing.

Tony says: "Alas, the world does not seem ready for the cyborg…". Maybe not yet, but our time will come.

[ Link via Wear-Hard Mailing List / Tony Havelka ]

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March 08, 2006

Mental Keyboard

The idea of thinking things to control a computer is a compelling one, which may or may not turn out to be one of those science fiction fantasies like everyone owning rocket cars. Nevertheless, it's interesting, as it uses 128 electrodes on the user's scalp and a software program to translate the EEG signals into something useful. Currently it's painfully slow, taking 5 to 10 mintues to write a typical sentance, but hey, it used to be painfully slow to download pictures off the internet too, huh? Despite being so slow, this kind of technology can be amazingly useful to the disabled, so then again, maybe this tech has a real future for itself.

[ Link via ubergizmo ]

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January 20, 2006

Wearable Barcode Scanner


This device is a barcode scanner that has a small Class 2 laser embedded in a finger ring. The bigger attached unit is a bluetooth transmitter. Now I don't have a lot of need to scan things on a day to day basis (thank god), but if I did, this is what I'd want. Having said that, if I was the kind of person who scanned things day in and day out, I probably couldn't afford the 1,200USD pricetag either.

[ Link via engadget ]

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December 02, 2005

Snowboarder Glove iPod Controller


This is a sweet looking iPod controller that is embedded in snowboarder gloves and works like a joystick. Looks like the company that partnered with O'Neil to make the wearable controller, fibretronic, is also offering their joystick knob for other products.

Dubbed the 'Fat Controller' by O'Neill, the joystick has been designed by Fibretronic to wirelessly operate an iPod player by connecting to an RF transmitter located in the cuff of the glove. The joystick is sewn into the glove on the back of the hand and the five functions (play, rewind, fast forward, volume up, volume down) can be toggled by moving the soft rubber stick. The signals from the joystick are then sent wirelessly from the transmitter in the glove to a receiver unit that plugs into the iPod player.

The joystick is suitable for incorporation into a broad range of textile or soft products and it will be seen in other ground-breaking garments and accessories next year. It offers a compact solution for controlling any type of electronic device compared to the more conventional flat style keypad systems. The joystick control system can be supplied in both 'wired' and wireless formats.

The glove will be on sale for this christmas.

[ Link via del ]

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November 01, 2005

Strange Wearable Keyboard



This guy built a wearable computer with a two handed keyboard on a napsack. Odd.

[ Link via del ]

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September 22, 2005

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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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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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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August 25, 2005

How to build a septambic keyer

For the MAKE kids out there:


Build your own septambic keyer (by Steve Mann)! Alternatively, there's always the Twiddler.

[ Link via del ]

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June 17, 2004

TouchPad Keyboard

7312187097675176.jpgTouchpad company, Exideas, is using touchpad technology to help build smaller input devices. This one has a lot of wearable tech potential being that, it's so small. I can imagine people using this on their sleeves, as a touchpad "watch" (sans timekeeping), or even on their pants. While I think I would prefer a Twiddler 2 for my dream wearable, this seems like a logical solution for hi-tech phones, mp3 players, and more.

"MessagEase Keyboard uses a system of taps and slides with fewer keys requiring a smaller area. The taps enter frequent letters while slides enter the rest of the characters. MessagEase keyboard is currently available for use with PDA and Tablet PC. A touchpad implementation of MessagEase can also function as a mouse input." [from geekzone]

[Link via engadget]

Posted by nym at 11:25 AM | TrackBack

May 25, 2004

Plastic Flexable Touch Panels

film_large.jpgGood news for future wearable computer input:

Fujitsu Monday announced the availability of ultra-thin, lightweight, flexible and rigid touch panels for mobile applications.

General delivery begins in early 2005. Pricing for a 2.5-inch Film-Film touch panel is about $5.00 in 100K-piece lots. A 3.8-inch Film-Film-Plastic touch panel is about $11.00 in 10K-piece lots.

[Link via Gizmodo]

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September 20, 2003

Here kitty kitty kitty...

kitty.gifNew wearable keyboard idea forwarded to me from dragoon named kitty. This has got to be the most attractive input device I think I've ever seen, too bad it's a male hand model. Also there's no obvious way to buy kitty, which is a shame considering there's always the Twiddler 2 which works pretty well for a one handed keyboard and mouse.

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June 13, 2003

Wearable Power, Input

One of the issues preventing the uptake of wearables and the creation of a gargoyle subculture is power: what good is a device that requires multiple expensive batteries just for a single day's use? Fuel cells promise an eventual solution, but reducing the cost and size will take years.

News of one potentional solution comes from yuichi's Kokoro blog in the shape of Smart Textile, a technology from Infineon Technologies that produces electricity from the temperature gradient between one's body temperature and air temperature.

Man wearing a fullsize tower
The japanese article from ZDNet Japan describing Smart Textiles includes the picture to the right, which shows what is not going to be the future of wearable computing.

Efficient input devices for wearables are another issue. Another entry from Japan is this new one-handed keyboard and mouse based on cell phone design. Japanese youth are fairly adept with cellphone text entry, so this might actually meet a demand. Hopefully some sort of autocomplete will be provided. (Snarfed from Slashdot)

Posted by dragoon at 03:22 PM