Monday, November 04, 2002

Computers to go
My NYC connection, the stockbroker, recommends Xybernaut. Not in possession of funds that can be invested, I still like to understand what he's talking about, so I check out xybr at the Nasdaq once in a while. Once a really hot item on the market, it dropped so low that it looked almost dead after the y2k crack. Now it's crawling back up, and my broker-friend might be right.

What fascinates me with Xybernaut has very little to do with stocks though. It's all about mobility. Today computers are like televisions: they tie you into a certain pattern of moment, and restrict you to certain environments. You need to be indoors, you need to be careful with liquids, temperatures and stress in the form of jolts and jars, you need to have a table or some sort of support for the keyboard and you need the same for the screen. With a Xybernaut computer, you can disregard these restrictions. OK, so I sound like a commercial, but really - imagine - my dyslectic son with his writing problems could with a wearable computer, a headset for a screen and a wireless keyboard either strapped to his arm or resting in his lap, have the same opportunities to take notes on a class excursion as his classmates with pens and pencils. My sister the live-action role-player could use the same equipment to quickly and unobstrusively refer to her notes while GM-ing the 70-100 people on one of her (relatively small and intimate) games. And these are just the most immediate uses I can see in my family.

I just like it for the coolness factor. I love the science-fiction aspect of wearing the computer, I can easily see myself with a small toolbelt containing the hard-drive, a screen built into my glasses, and an input device the size of my palm, where I scribble down cryptic, secret messages or perhaps call up information with sub-vocalised commands... But I also see the political problem with making computers too wearable and portable. I might for instance have to give up my nice office and move my books into some kind of accessible storage with only a small space for book perusal, while I get to work in several different types of environments depending on the type of work I do: from an auditorium to the class-room, a common work-room for peer-to-peer cooperation, a student-meeting room, a silent study room for accessing the heavier databanks or doing online editing or design. It would mean a new architecture for staff workspaces in the college. Somehow that thought thrills me and scares me. I like this little cave where I am surrounded by pictures, books and green plants. But oh yes.... I'd happily become a cyborg - if it looks cool!

No comments: