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Computer Wherewithal One Can Wear With All

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Could supermodels someday look like cyborgs? Scientists say that’s likely, given the current high-tech trend to build “smart clothing,” or to incorporate computer technology into the public’s daily wardrobe.

Right now, however, many of the offerings remain more cyber geek than cyber chic: keyboards strapped to wrists, power cords running down necks, batteries clinging to underwear. Take ViA Inc.'s flexible PC, a full-blown computer that wraps around a person’s waist. The Minnesota-based hardware developer is marketing the PC to customers who need to walk as they work--emergency medical technicians or factory employees, for example.

The Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is developing a computer-in-a-vest for police officers. The book-sized unit, which can be strapped to an officer’s back, includes a digital camera and a voice recorder.

And Point Research Corp. in Santa Ana has created the Dead Reckoning Module, a portable product that helps people navigate when mapping information from satellites is unavailable. The U.S. Army is evaluating the module as part of its Land Warrior program, which will build an all-in-one computerized infantry backpack.

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“A lot of what you’re seeing in this area right now starts out as a military-only product,” said Robert Levi, president of Point Research. “The potential for consumer uses is really big, though. It’s just a matter of time.”

P.J. Huffstutter covers high technology for The Times. She can be reached at (714) 966-7830 and at p.j.huffstutter@latimes.com.


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