RealTime IT News

Hitachi Unveils Prototype Wearable Internet Appliance

[ASIA] Japanese electronics giant Hitachi Ltd. Friday announced it has joined forces with three other firms to develop a compact, lightweight Wearable Internet Appliance (WIA) and explore related business opportunities.

A prototype of Hitachi's hands-free WIA, powered by Microsoft's Windows CE 3.0 operating system, was demonstrated by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates during his Jan. 6 keynote address at the 2001 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Hitachi developed its WIA prototype, which consists of a high-resolution, wearable display and pocket-size control unit, in partnership with scientific and industrial instrument firm Shimadzu Corp. and Colorado MicroDisplay Inc. (CMD).

Xybernaut Corp. will work with Hitachi, Shimadzu, and CMD in exploring WIA business opportunities.

Shimadzu developed the WIA's 70-gram (2.5 oz.) "monocular head-mounted display" based on CMD's microdisplay and interface chipset.

The PC-compatible, SVGA (800x600) monocular display supports 18-bit color images (256,000 colors), including streaming video. It is usable with eyeglasses and is said by Hitachi to be easily visible even in sunlight.

"The displayed image is as large as a 13-inch screen located 60 cm (two feet) in front of the eye," said Yutaka Nakamura, an R&D general manager with Shimadzu Corp.

The 230-gram (8.2 oz.) control unit, which provides wireless Internet access and supplies images (including streaming video) to the display via a USB interface, is built around a Hitachi 32-bit SH4 RISC processor.

The "instant power-on" control unit features a Type II CompactFlash slot.

"WIA indicates a key direction for information appliances in the post-PC era," said Yoshiyuki Imoto, general manager of Hitachi's Digital Media Systems Division.

Hitachi believes that WIAs offer an ideal connectivity solution for a range of business applications, from call center and maintenance service environments to jobs that require unrestricted mobility, such as health care and hospitality industry workers.

But the market potential for WIAs is not limited to business uses.

"We anticipate this product line to have a major impact on the future of telephony, computing, music and video players, gaming and consumer e-commerce in general," said Xybernaut chief executive officer Edward Newman.