"Services Demonstrate CDI's Wearable PC" SeaPower (published by the Navy League of the United States), September 1996, p.p. 24-25.
Computing Devices International started full production last month of a wearable personal computer that, because it weighs only three pounds when fitted with a battery, can be strapped to the user's body for "hands-free" computing. The wearable PC has been demonstrated to the Army for use in language translation in Bosnia and used by Navy SEALs for transmission of photo intelligence. The Navy's Aegis shipbuilding program office also plans to evaluate it for use in shipboard maintenance.
Computing Devices has formed an alliance with ViA Inc. to market the wearable PC, which consists of the computer, peripheral equipment, and battery. The computer, based on Intel 80486 technology, provides eight megabytes of random access memory, expandable to 24 megabytes, and slots for two-way voice-recognition and audio devices.
Jerry Hess, manager of the wearable PC program at Computing Devices, which is making it available to Defense Department customers, says that ViA acquired patent rights for the system concept in 1994 from the inventor, Craig Janik, of Palo Alto, Calif. Under the agreement between the companies, ViA markets the wearable system commercially, and Computing Devices will manufacture about 100 units per month for the customers of both companies.
Hess says that Computing Devices recognized that the wearable PC could be useful for computing tasks in confined areas, such as equipment spaces aboard a ship or an aircraft, in which personnel must have their hands free and usually cannot use a laptop computer without difficulty.
Capt. Michael Valdez, director of warfare specialty programs at the Naval Aerospace Operational Medical Institute (NAOMI), says that NAOMI staff in Bosnia were requested by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to demonstrate to Army units both the wearable PC and a handheld unit built by Telxon; both systems were loaded with a language-translation program developed by NAOMI for communication with the Croatian populace about the location of land mines. The NAOMI program and a voice-activated translation program developed by Dragon Systems both were modified to give the NAOMI program a voice-activated capability.
Scott Baudhuin, marketing manager for Computing Devices, says that Navy SEALs have used the wearable PC during exercises to process digital intelligence photos taken on reconnaissance flights and then transmit the photo imagery to ground commanders. SEALs also use the wearable PC, Baudhuin says, for system checkouts of SEAL delivery vehicles; the PC reduces the time needed for the checkout process, he says, from three hours to less than one hour.
Hess says that ViA has been awarded a small business innovative research contract by the Naval Air Systems Command to study the potential use of the wearable PC to brief Navy pilots. An initial phase of the study determined that course and target data could be loaded into systems worn by the pilots, who then would download the data into the mission computers of their aircraft. The study also found that wearable PCs issued to pilots could be loaded with critical information on survival measures and with a global positioning system receiver for use in the event the pilots are forced down in hostile territory.
Computing Devices says the wearable PC can be used by the services for training because it allows students to train in the field, reducing considerably the need for classroom work, according to Hess.