Almost time for wearable computers

Summary:When new models from Hitachi and Xybernaut go on sale this spring, you'll be seeing geeks wearing a head-mounted display unit while talking on their cell phones.

Hitachi has promised that its wearable PC will begin shipping to customers in America and Japan this spring.

However, Europeans will have to wait before they get the chance to buy the fashionable device, as those who are marketing the wearable PC don't think there is much demand for it in countries such as Great Britain and Germany.

The wearable PC includes a head-mounted display unit that lets the user view a high-resolution image, while the rest of the device is small and light enough to slip into a pocket. Hitachi believes that people will use the wearable PC to work, surf the Web, or play games when on the move.

In a statement released this week, Hitachi guaranteed that the product will go on sale by the end of this quarter.

Hitachi developed the wearable PC in collaboration with Xybernaut--a US-based firm that has developed a range of similar products in the past. Both companies plan to sell the wearable PC, which was on display at this year's Consumer Electronics Show. Last year, it had been hoped that the product would go on sale by the end of 2001.

Japanese customers will buy the wearable PC from Hitachi, which calls it the WIA-100NB Wearable Internet Appliance. Hitachi is expected to target business users. Xybernaut, which will target U.S. consumers, has called the device the "Poma" and is already taking online orders. The Poma will cost $1,499.

A Xyberbaut representative told ZDNet News that the company has no immediate plans for a European launch. "Maybe it will go on sale in Europe at the end of 2002," Tanja Zajonc, product manager at Xybernaut said.

As ZDNet reported last summer, the wearable PC runs on Microsoft's Windows CE operating system, and contains a Hitachi 128MHz RISC processor and 32MB of Ram. It will also offer a CompactFlash card and a USB slot. The main unit measures 140x90x26mm, and the whole device weighs only 500g.

The headset will give users the illusion that there is a 13-inch color screen in front of their face. Users will operate the machine via a handheld optical mouse.

Xybernaut already sells a number of different wearable applications, which are used by workers in sectors such as aerospace and travel. Experts believe that wearable computers will soon take off in a big way, and will rapidly supersede technologies such as mobile phones.

ZDNet Germany's Dietmar Mueller contributed to this report.

Topics: Hardware

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