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June 26, 2008

'Wearable' Gadgets of the Future

By Nitya Prashant, TMCnet Contributing Editor

Volume control by rolling your eyes? Tapping your fingers to start a DVD player? If such ideas sound straight out of science fiction, think again!
NTT DoCoMo (News - Alert), a mobile communications company based in Japan, is testing new technologies for "wearable" gadgets that will change the way people interact with consumer electronics gadgets, Associated Press said in a Thursday report. The company believes wearable control technology will be adapted for mobile devices that download music, play video games and allow users to shop online and keep up with their e-mail.

"We are working on a cell phone of the future," the AP report quoted Masaaki Fukumoto, executive research engineer at NTT DoCoMo, as saying.
In a demonstration on Tuesday, AP said, researcher Hiroyuki Manabe wore a giant headset covered with wires to show how computer graphic lines in a monitor connected to the headset darted wildly whenever his eyes moved. Manabe turned up the volume on a digital music player by rolling his eyes clockwise, and jerked his eyes twice to the right to fast forward.

One of the ways in which this technology works is by having sensors and chips inside headphones detect electrical current produced by movements of the wearer's eyeballs, the AP report quoted  Fukumoto as saying.
Some applications for the new technology include enabling cell phone cameras to read bar codes when the user simply looks at the codes, researchers said. These bar codes are used in Japan to get product information, download music and coupons.

Fukumoto also demonstrated a wearable cell phone shaped like a ring about the size of a ping pong ball, AP said. When the wearer sticks his fingers in his ears, the sound travels as vibrations through his bones and into his ears, where it is heard as sound again.

Yet another use of the technology was seen in the UbiButton,a wristwatch with a vibration sensor that can detect the wearer's thumb and forefinger tapping together to work as a remote controller for such gadgets as a DVD player.

While applications for the technology are immense, making them applicable for practical, commercial use may take some years, officials said.
Nitya Prashant is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Nitya’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

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