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Historical notes

Ivan Sutherland, a pioneer in computer graphics, described a head-mounted display with half-silvered mirrors so that the wearer could see a virtual world superimposed on reality [5] [6]. Sutherland's work, as well as more recent related work [7][8][9][10][11] is characterized by its tethered nature. The wearer is tethered to a workstation which is generally powered from an AC outlet.

The tetherless `wearable multimedia'system (Fig 1(1980)) was designed and built by the author as a tool for `personal imaging', with the goal of attaining an enhanced sense of visual awareness and producing visual art [12].

The early apparatus, housed in a heavy welded-steel-frame backpack, weighed more than fifty pounds, and could only run for a short time per charge. However, `wearable multimedia' evolved to the extent of being worn comfortably in a small waist bag (Fig 1(1990)), or even sewn into a vest or the like (Fig 1(1995)).

  
Figure: `Wearable multimedia' systems designed and built by author: Early (1980) apparatus comprised separate radios for inbound and outbound communications paths. A bulky 1.5 inch CRT, requiring a heavy bicycle helmet for support, was used for the display with 40 characters per line. The system was found to be too cumbersome, so a waist-mounted television was next (1985) adopted as the display, leaving both eyes unobstructed. With the advent of miniature CRTs in the late 1980s, a comfortable eyeglass-based system became practical, and was later transferred to a more modern visor. A single hat-mounted antenna provided communications in the ham bands. Presently (1985), cellular communications (antenna in hat) provide base-level (low-speed) data communications channels when the unit is too far from its home base to use the high speed ham radio unit (pictured here on waist).
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Currently a version of the `wearable multimedia' apparatus is being built into a normal pair of eyeglasses, running from a Walkman-sized belt pack. The current apparatus is worn during normal day-to-day activities, such as walking to/from the office, waiting in line at the bank, shopping, etc..

Recently, the system became better known as the `Wearable Wireless Webcam', when, with the advent of the World Wide Web, experiments in visual connectivity and shared visual memory were started [1], although these experiments were not central to the `wearable multimedia' effort.

Social acceptance is important in the design of any prosthetic device; the hope is that miniaturization capabilities of modern technology will downsize it to the same order as devices such as hearing aids and regular eyeglasses. Attitudes toward various forms of the author's `wearable multimedia' systems have significantly changed over the last fifteen years. In particular, it is now possible to wear the apparatus in many everyday situations where it would have been completely out of place just a few years ago. Through a combination of changes in the apparatus (its having become much less obtrusive, thanks to improvements in technology allowing for miniaturization), and changes in society (increase in society's acceptance of technology), it is not nearly as out-of-place as it was just a few years ago. Privacy issues associated with `wearable multimedia/personal imaging' have also been addressed[3].

Efforts by others have been directed toward wearable computing[13][14], but without the wearable, tetherless video capability.

The goal of this paper is to propose `wearable multimedia/personal imaging' and its potential use for either a spatial visual filter or a temporal visual filter. The spatial visual filtering capability is presented as the Personal Visual Assistant, and then the temporal visual filter is presented as the Visual Memory Prosthetic.


next up previous
Next: `Personal Visual Assistant (PVA)' Up: Introduction Previous: Introduction
Steve Mann
1998-09-18