Bristol Wearable Computing

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Meeting with Neil Gerschenfeld, 6th August 1998

Discussed common themes in the wearable area with Neil Gerschenfeld (MIT physics guy). Presented HP's wearable work as focussed on the value of wearable computers to members of the public, the wearable as the next personal computer (as opposed to its role in vertical applications). Also emphasised its value as the perfect web peripheral, in which case the question becomes what additional value can the web now deliver? What is the synergy resulting from combining the web and the wearable?

I suggested that there were many interesting interaction technologies being developed (especially at MIT), but that these were not the bottle-neck in making wearables successful for the public, it would probably be enough to provide dynamic connectivity to a range of fairly traditional portable and public peripheral devices. In which case our thrust is architectural rather than technological - where is this work happening in MIT?

Neil suggested that it was spread across those MIT groups working on wearables. Wearables was more of an incidental common link than a uniting focus for MIT groups. It seemed like diverse wearable applications were implied through the vision of the various teams, rather than developed completely and seriously. Neil also hinted that MIT tended to focus on doing things not solved by other groups. He cited computer graphics as something recently canned becuase they had realised that computer graphics had become a commodity. Neil supported our approach: building our own infrastructure specifically developed to allow experimentation by members of the public.

He suggested that once we had a platform developed that I should visit for a TTT lunch and thereafter talk to their students about the kind of public applications that they could foresee. [talking to SPS afterwards. How useful would this be? SLO had done a student visit and got nothing out of it. Would it be any different if I went  - I might press more on value questions rather than technology questions, perhaps this would be more fruitful.]

[I also asked Neil about his reaction to smartcards and JavaRings. He said they were following these carefully and were working on wearable jewelry. I wondered whether they might not eventually displace wearables in clothing.

Neil asked what I thought might provide the eventual long range communication solution. I dont know - the telecomms companies will sort this out eventaully. I just wondered whether global comms would become so cheap that local servers would be completely displaced. I think Neil thought that global comms would completely displace local servers.]

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