background image
E. Wearable computers
What is a wearable computer?
The term `wearable computer' was introduced by researchers from Carnegie Mellon
University in 1991, although the idea for augmenting human senses goes back to the
17th Century. According to Starner, `wearable computing pursues an interface ideal of a
continuously worn, intelligent assistant that augments memory, intellect, creativity, com-
munication, and physical senses and abilities.'The term `wearable' should be clearly distin-
guished from `portable'. Its main characteristic is not that it is easy to carry, but offers
easy communication with the user.
Specially designed wearable systems consisting of a wearable computer, HMD and an
input device are used by Boeing aircraft mechanics, with the system providing them with
the most up-to-date version of technical manuals.The system is intuitive and portable,
although blocked peripheral vision was a common complaint amongst the users.
The development of this field could result in even more unexpected input and output
devices. One area of concern is the power supply for the system.Wearable computing is
still a relatively young field of information technologies, and research has not yet matured
sufficiently to fulfil the idea behind it to full potential.The basic aim is to create wearable
devices which require minimal amount of interaction on the user's part.This idea would
realise the vision of ubiquitous computing field perfectly.Wearable computers could
facilitate museum visitors in orientation and study of the collections, starting from con-
sulting a guide and ending with possibilities for immersion in an augmented reality envi-
ronment. Experts still feel that the technology is not ready, and this prevents wider use.
H u m a n I n t e r f a c e s Te c h n o l o g y
a n d t h e H e r i t a g e S e c t o r
Brief Background
This section presents three wholly different types of interface application. One case
study investigates touchscreen technology at the J. Paul Getty Museum in California,
another looks at multimedia presentation of fragile precious items at the Philadelphia
Museum of Art, and yet another on the use of portable guides in the Kulturen museum
in Lund, Sweden.This diversity in uses and approaches is natural for such a broad area
where `recipe books' do not yet exist.
Case Studies
Case Study I J. Paul Getty Museum
The J. Paul Getty Museum, founded in 1953 in a villa in Malibu, California, moved
Human Interfaces
This case study is based upon materials from the Web pages of the J. Paul Getty Museum
( and Elo TouchSystems Inc. (,
both sites visited on 07/01/2003.