Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Wearable computers

Picking up some stuff from HyVee on the way home this evening, there's someone walking around with this rig, scanning products, with something strapped to her hand: I just had to ask, so I stopped her. Very nice, explained briefly and let me take a photo. Its an inventory taking system. The thing on her hand is a laser barcode scanner. Remember the old ones? A sort of adding-machine that stole part of its keyboard from a stenotype machine. Well, as far as I gathered. I never really ran one more than a few minutes. I always thought those were interesting, even before I knew anything about this, or cared professionally. What other wearable device even existed 20 years ago? Symbol (who knew they were owned by Motolora!) makes a series of these, all the way down to "ring" scanners, and miniature wrist computers. This one is some sort of windows mobile device. Hard to see the screen as it had some sort of polarizing screen cover (for glare or secrecy I do not know). I also didn't catch /why/ you need all that computer. The operator seemed to be mostly scanning and pressing buttons to change modes (like, to switch products), and didn't look at the screen. But, assuming you do need to see what the device is doing, it still seems a bit overdone; that seems like way too much to tote around for any task that is likely while walking around a store. I also cannot find this setup. Symbol shows the scanner bolted to a smaller device, so I guess you can plug it into any number of things. Assuming you do need to see the display regularly, I'd love to see what else could be done, like attaching it to a smartphone (through bluetooth maybe, and you pair as needed), or one of the long-promised HMDs, at least as the display. I admit much of this is relatively speculative. I'd love to get my hands on this, or follow the operator around for a few hours to see how it really works out.

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