October 27, 2000

Charmed, will be pleased to meet you

Author: JT Smith

By Julie Bresnick
NewsForge Staff

Technology continues to claim a second, albeit a cozy second, to sex
for
holding our attention. But from the aisles of Charmed Technologies' PR wunderkind,
The Brave New Unwired World Fashion
Show
, it was hard to tell which was winning. Who would have
thought, as
folk stood gape-mouthed staring at the same slinky models that grace
the
pages of fashion magazines, that they were witnessing not just the
cutting-edge of "wearable" computers but the latest front on which Open
Source has gained valuable ground.

Charmed Technology's new CTO, William Rojas, says the slew of
fashion
shows -- where sleek and slender models strut runways in shiny outfits
and
tiny fantastical devices that are professed, over the loudspeaker, to
communicate with each other and the Internet at large -- is like
Charmed's
attempt to "preach the gospel."

The models are real (well, at least not computers) but the
Internet-ready
goggles and glasses are simply prototypes, some of which Charmed hopes
to,
with the help of the developer community, make into a reality.

"Most of the press has said it's a 'wearable computer' but that's
even a
little narrow," Rojas says. "It's really much more. The broadest definition is
'narrowband
wireless' (and in the future, broadband wireless) intelligent devices
which
would be wearables if you put them on your body but you could really
put
them in your office or in your bedroom."

It's not just an Internet-enabled cell phone or PDA that Rojas
describes,
it's a network of highly portable and functional devices that interact
with
each other to make the Internet more pervasive than ever before. Nanix, which
Rojas later described as a combination of "nanotechnology" and "Linux,"
is
the distributive micro-operating environment they hope to make standard
for
this burgeoning wireless Internet industry.

"Nanix will allow you to have miniature intelligent wearable
devices,
let's call them InfoCharms or Charms [as in both a lucky charm and in
one of
the elementary
particles
in an atom], and then communicator types of products
similar to
a mobile phone but with greater functionality," he says. "The communicator will
talk to
the InfoCharms. And sometimes you can have a heads-up display, a
device
that lets you see a screen on goggles or a visor or glasses and then
somewhere else around you, or on you, there would be the communicator
system
that is talking to the Internet on either a private or public network.
Nanix
is an operating environment that controls all of that. Nanix needs to
be
able to provide a set of distributed operating system primitives that
will
let a wearable computer environment function in an optimal way."

The fashion shows were meant to muster up enthusiasm for the ideas
and
now Charmed hopes to foster their fruition by seducing developers with
the
technology. After announcing Nanix about six months ago, Charmed now
reiterates their commitment to Open Source by offering the CharmIt Wearable Kit, a
hardware
package consisting of the materials needed to construct your own
devices.
(It does cost money but it has no secrets.)

Rojas, who was with IBM for 10 years and was recently lured back
from a
consulting career in Hong Kong to help Charmed define and develop a
product
line, explains that "the CharmIt Kit is a developer kit not intended to
be a
mass producible system ... yet. We're just trying to get interest
amongst
people that follow the area and want to develop specific applications."

VR, AI, and now AR, augmented reality.
This
is not the traditional (as traditional as anything in our rapidly
changing
computer industry can be) definition of convergence, which, in the mainstream has been about television and computers. AR is the convergence
of
distributive and intelligent computing, remote information gathering,
GUIs,
and other dynamics of personal computing and human behavior that
continue to
evolve the relationship between humans and computers.

AR, according to Rojas, is the goal. He sees a future in which we
become
the network, people become walking routers.

Though Rojas is poised to play a significant role in the planning
and
execution of this new product, Charmed is actually led on the
technology
front by co-founder and chief scientist, Dr.
Alex (Sandy) Pentland
, venerable pioneer in the field of wearables.
Long dedicated to the eventual proliferation of wireless computing,
Pentland
is also the academic
head
of
the MIT Media Lab, and
founder/vice chair for the IEEE
Computer
Society Wearable Computers group
.

Other founders include Internet entertainment pioneer and Charmed
CEO, Alex
Lightman
, and fashion industry veteran, Katrina Barillova, as COO.

Lightman, who graduated from MIT in 1983, habitually breaks new
ground.
He produced the first Internet VR hybrid (VRML/Java) with Star Trek:
First
Contact, and, Xena: Warrior Princess. He was marketing manager for IntelliCorp, the first public
artificial intelligence software company, is a senior associate of the
Foresight Institute, sits on the
boards
of three non-profit space-related organizations, and has dabbled behind
the
scenes in Massachusetts politics and the education community in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
In
1999 Forbes named him an "Up and Comer." He is also currently a
contributing editor at Red Herring
magazine
and IntellectualCapi
tal.com
.

Granted the folk at MIT do a fine job of making current and
primitive
wearables look cool, let's face it, until now wearables have been
solely for
geeks. But Katarina Barillova is going to change that.

Barillova, who, in addition to more than 12 years of experience
in
the fashion industry, is a former intelligence agent, is chiefly
responsible
for introducing the "sexy" in technology to its counterpart in humans.

Perhaps more prophetic than provisional, this merging of cultural
genres
is gaining ground on both the pedestrian side, as The Charmed Badge, a business card-size device which uses
infrared
technology to send and collect data, begins to replace nametags at
business
gatherings; and on the technology front, as the Open Source community
is
called upon for input.

Category:

  • Open Source
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