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You Can Make It On Your Own

  Never Forget a Face
Photo of Alan with a space helmet on
  Mini processors embedded in space suits could one day display info on the inside of an astronaut's helmet.

The wearable computer might become the next electronic gadget you can't live without - like your laptop, cell phone and PDA before it. Researchers at MIT's Media Lab have been wearing their computers since the mid-1980's, when Steven Mann's wearable computer looked like alien head -gear and caused unsuspecting passers-by to cross the street to avoid him.

By 1995, when Alan last checked in with the wearables group, the technology was almost worth the bulk and burden. Helmet-mounted cameras relayed images and information to the web, and Mann's underwear could wirelessly control his dorm room's thermostat.

Photo of MIT student
As computer parts become cheaper and smaller, wearable computers will become more fashionable.  

In "Wearables," Alan revisits the group of researchers to see what kind of progress they've made. Rich DeVaul's computerized jacket - a network of CPU's, hard drives, sensors and wireless cards - is more powerful than the average desktop computer. When Alan tries it on, he finds that the jacket, via a glasses-mounted screen, can tell him who he is talking to, help him navigate the lab, even remind him of events on his daily calendar. This type of technology could one day be as useful to an astronaut as to a CEO.

Meanwhile, we're sure Brian Clarkson will never forget his conversation with Alan - but if he does, he can just rewind. Using his wearable computer, Clarkson recorded every waking moment of his last hundred days. Although he concedes the life of a grad student is full of repetition and routine, Clarkson can also show Alan at least one extraordinary moment - the moment Clarkson met the woman who is now his girlfriend. Instant nostalgia. Tell us what you think. (LINK to mail bag page)

For more on this topic, see the web feature:
Digital World

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