Future soldiers may wear their computers

Future soldiers may wear their computers

By Patricia Daukantas

GCN Staff

JUNE 4—At the International Conference on Wearable Computing last week in Vienna, Va., military officials expressed cautious enthusiasm about sending soldiers into battle wearing their computers.

Within the next two years, small computers could be mounted on vehicles, said Maj. Gen. Terrence Murray, Marine Corps assistant deputy commandant for manpower and reserve affairs. But the Marines are not convinced that all troops need their own wearable computers, Murray said. Giving the devices to platoon and squad leaders might suffice.

Issues such as device size, bandwidth and battery power remain unresolved, Murray said. A Marine already carries 75 to 90 pounds of basic equipment into the field. Wireless transmission for wearable devices might be spotty in urban and jungle areas.

Col. Edward C. Gruetzemacher III said the Missouri Army National Guard is testing wearable computers for helicopter maintenance because they are less fragile than notebook PCs. The guard is already seeing some improvement in turnaround time for repairs, he said.

Conference sponsor Xybernaut Corp. of Fairfax, Va., announced its Mobile Assistant V wearable device with a 500-MHz Intel Mobile Celeron processor, a hard drive of 2G to 5G and up to 256M of synchronous dynamic RAM. The 6-inch-long unit weighs about a pound with a choice of head-mounted or flat-panel display and resolution up to SuperVGA.

The Mobile Assistant runs a full-featured Microsoft Windows 98, NT, Windows 2000 or Linux operating system instead of a small-scale OS like those in personal digital assistants. It will be available this summer for $3,995, Xybernaut president and chief executive officer Edward G. Newman said.

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