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IBM's diamond in the rough

Big Blue's Almaden Research Centre imagines a future where technology is so pervasive -- and so easy to use -- that it's downright chic
Written by Richard Shim, Contributor

The observation that there is nothing "personal" about personal computing is nothing new. The answers to that objection by IBM's Almaden Research Centre are, however.

A computer worn as jewellery is just one of the eye-catching ways researchers have developed to integrate technology into our daily lives. As they see it, the more comfortable we get with computers, the more we can learn from them and use them.

Pervasive computing was the topic of discussion last week at IBM's New Paradigms for Using Computers, an annual gathering of designers, scientists and academics.

"There will have to be more personalisation in electronics, meaning appropriate features in appropriate items we may wear," said Cameron Miner, a principal researcher in the design lab.

Miner expects more modularity in devices to occur as a result of personalisation.

For example, a cell phone handset could be separated into a receiver and a transmitter, capabilities that could easily be integrated into an earring and a broach.

It's an interesting concept, according to Dataquest analyst Mike McGuire. But if it's going to appeal to a large audience, it can't be too costly.

Miner said digital jewellery modules, still a couple of years away from the consumer market, would have specific capabilities, which would lower the cost.

Digital jewellery will depend on a variety of enabling technologies, such as Bluetooth and GPS, to increase its usefulness. The fashion factor is more of a challenge: if it doesn't look good, people won't want to wear it.

"This could be another sticking point," McGuire said. "The danger with fashion is that it is so fickle."

Miner believes users would be willing to have more than one type of device for the sake of fashion. That's apparent even today with some people owning more than one cell phone or changing face plates on PDAs and PCs, turning useful electronics into chic accessories.

Take me to the Bluetooth special

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