An MIT Media Labs spin off has developed a cracker sized sliver of silicon that can control home appliances and send out emergency distress signals over the Web.
Called an Infocharm, the developers expect to begin selling the devices in volume for $10 a piece by the end of November, and will demonstrate them at Internet World in New York this week.
The design is one of a number of tiny devices being developed by Infocharms, the first Internet company to focus on wireless Internet access for fashion and lifestyle. In collaboration with computer, communications, content and clothing companies, Infocharms will embark on a year long global travelling show, starting with the Unwired World Fashion Show at Internet World.
"The shows will provide audiences with an experience of the future of the Internet," said Alex Lightman, Infocharms' president and chairman.
Lightman, a MIT graduate, partnered with international model Katrina Barillova, to produce a consumer market for wearable technology developed by the MIT Media Lab.
He said part of the show will include small, inexpensive 'charms', Infocharms' name for wearable Internet connected devices. The charms will include a thin credit card sized base unit that connects modules to MP3 players, TV remote controls and cellular phones.
The device comes with a tiny infrared transceiver that automatically captures which booths testers visited, the length of time spent there and who they spoke with. When attendees leaves the conference, they will stop at a kiosk, where the badge automatically emails to the attendee the names, phone numbers, addresses and other personal information of the people they spoke to throughout the day.
Infocharms will also demonstrate products promoting wearable computers developed by MIT Media Lab, Georgia Tech, Carnegie-Mellon (computers in a T-shirt) and the Center for Future Health (heart monitors and related medical wearables).
Unlike desktop computers, wearable computers have the potential to 'see' and 'hear' what the user's experience. This makes them excellent platforms for applications where the computer is working even when it isn't given explicit commands.
"People haven't thought of computers as being part of the social scene, but rather as big iron chained to a desk," said Alex Pentland, academic head of the Media Lab. "They haven't thought about what a little computer might do to help daily human life. We have done devices like this at Media Lab social functions, we know that they work amazingly well."
Dataquest analyst Martin Reynolds said that devices such as Infocharms' intelligent conference badge would be easy to produce at very low cost. "You can buy remote controls with similar infrared capabilities, similar to the conference contact recording Infocharm for $9.99," he said. "You could program your Palm Pilot to do the same thing."
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