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Rick's Wearable GPS Adventure
Xybernaut and Sony SkyMap
by Rick Smith and Stephen R. Jones
(May 12, 2000)

It took some doing but our senior editor Rick Smith was determined to merge mobile form and function by installing a Sony GPS system on the wearable Xybernaut PC .

Last minute inspiration

Rick was preparing to travel to the 5th annual Wearable Computer Conference where he will return the Xybernaut unit we have been reviewing when ... inspiration struck.

You see, Rick uses GPS navigation extensively, especially when traveling to trade shows. So, as Rick began to contemplate having to haul along an additional laptop solely for navigation, it occurred to him that he would be guilty of pure journalistic negligence if he didn't at least attempt to get a GPS system running on the Xybernaut.

Houston, we have a problem

Of course, some things are easier said than done. In this case, he had to figure out a way to install the 3 CDs worth of Sony SkyMap 2000 software onto the Xybernaut without using a CD-ROM drive! But, a few hours later, after a series of complex steps involving a 260 MB Calluna Move IT PC card slot hard drive shuffled to and from an Acer 333T laptop and some twisted software hacks, Rick successfully installed the software, along with detailed maps for the Chicago area and Washington D.C.

The very fact that this field experiment was even possible is a credit to the interoperability of Xybernaut , Sony , and Calluna . And, in the future, Calluna's upcoming 650 MB version of its PC card drive will make this sort of "mobile transfer" much easier since the capacity is equivalent to a CD-ROM. It's really amazing that this seemingly leading-edge technology plays so well together.

Walking on the moon

OK. So far, so good. Rick got the software installed. But, how does this combination of wearable PC and GPS navigation function together?

For a "test flight", Rick donned his personal NavSuit ® (patent pending, all rights reserved, steal it and we'll sue) and walked around his neighborhood, fully mobile, with GPS tracking all the way. (I can just imagine the looks from neighbors seeing the glowing wrist tablet swinging in the darkness as he walked and bobbing up occasionally as he checked his position.)

The experience turned out to be an entirely satisfying synergy of software and hardware that quickly became second nature. Despite all the technology employed, the net effect was how simple and natural it felt to check his geographic position and pick waypoints as easily as checking his watch. It is not hard to see an immediate and expanding future for this as a tool for Fedex drivers, meter readers, census takers, and mobile service personnel of every stripe.

The continuing voyages...

Rick has now left for the Wearable Computer Conference in Washington D.C. armed with his high-tech navigation aid, where he hopes to try longer distance navigation using voice technology and the head mounted display.

In theory, it should be entirely possible to use SkyMap's voice control feature to pick destinations and ask for directions while wearing the GPS-equipped Xybernaut. In fact, Rick has used an equivalent setup with a WinBook laptop to guide his annual trip to Comdex.

(Unfortunately, the audio output of the evaluation Xybernaut was not working so it won't be possible to test SkyMap's ability to announce points of interest or speak its driving directions.)

Stay tuned for more as our Xybernaut adventure continues...

Copyright 2000 Rick Smith and Stephen R. Jones
All rights reserved.

   
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