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"Is there space for wearables?"

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4 Author(s)

The integration of man, a protective suit, and computer has been an integral part of the vision presented in science fiction movies and books since long before the Borg strode across the Star Trek screen. It is easy to envision using computers in countless ways to augment human perception, recall, and reactions to provide huge gains in personal safety and capability. However, the reality for today's space walker falls well short of these visionary projections. Once the confines of the Space Shuttle or Space Station is left behind, computer support is pretty much limited by the throughput of a simple one line text display and the bandwidth of a human voice relay channel. Practical issues of device size and power consumption, environmental tolerance, and display and control interface compatibility with the real design constraints of space suits have frustrated multiple attempts over the past 20 years to make the envisioned possibilities real. NASA and industry efforts to produce advanced EVA computer task support systems using heads up displays, wrist mounted displays, and modifications of the current chest mounted display and control system have fallen short in the demanding environment of NASA's space missions. So far, the correct balance of utility, reliability, compact size, and weight, has eluded developers and space has remained the unconquered frontier for wearables. Undaunted, the faithful have continued the quest, and with the dramatic advances in hardware and software systems we have seen over the past decade, the path to achieving the vision seems, at last, to be clearing. Key elements in this development are the emergence of display technologies that make it practical to rapidly present large amounts of information to a suited crew person in space, advances in processing capability and speech recognition software that offer the potential for a flexible EVA control interface, and the combination of high density storage and wireless network technologies multiplying the amounts and kinds of information upon which the EVA astronaut can draw. Together with emerging visions of exploration missions that will demand complex interactions and unprecedented real time support, these developments lead to the conclusion that there will, and must be, space for w- earables and wearables for space.

Published in:

Wearable Computers, 2002. (ISWC 2002). Proceedings. Sixth International Symposium on

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