Military brass cautiously laud wearable PCs

Military brass cautiously laud wearable PCs

Will soldiers of the future wear computers into battle? At the recent International Conference on Wearable Computing in Vienna, Va., military officials expressed cautious enthusiasm.

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 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 gear in the field. Plus, wireless transmission for wearable devices might be spotty in urban and jungle areas.

Vendors are well aware of the size limitations. For instance, Xybernaut Corp. of Fairfax, Va., has created a wearable PC whose main component measures 6 inches in length and weighs about 1 pound. It also provides a variety of mounting options and screen displays.

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 already notes some improvement in turnaround time for repairs, he said.

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