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The author's `personal imaging' computer

During the 1970s, I envisioned, designed, and built the first WearComp (called WearComp0, which evolved into WearComp1) to function as an experimental ``photographer's assistant'' for a new imaging technique. The goal of this technique was to characterize the manner in which scenes or objects responded to light, through the process of gathering differently exposed/illuminated pictures. The procedure resulted in a richer scene description, which allowed more expressive/artistic images to be rendered. This technique was recently described in[6][7]. (See Fig 2.)


Figure: (a) Image from one of my recent exhibitions, which I generated from data taken using my personal imaging system. The unique capabilities of a completely tetherless wearable {computer,imaging,graphics} system facilitate a new expressive capability with images that could not be created by any other means. The images transcend the boundary between photography, painting, and computer graphics. (b,c) Data sets are collected based on response to various forms of illumination. (b) Personal imaging computer in use with 40000 Joule flash lamp operating at 4000V DC with 24kV trigger. (c) With 2400 Joule flash lamp operating at 480V with 6kV trigger.

The photographer's assistant system comprised two portions, a WearComp with light sources (as peripherals), and a base-station with imaging apparatus. The imaging technique, referred to as `lightspace', involved determining the response of a typically static scene or object to various forms of illumination, and recording the response measurements (originally in analog form on photographic emulsion) at the base station.

This project evolved into a system called WearComp2, which also had some degree of graphics capability, digital sound recording and playback capability, and music synthesis capability.

I built WearComp2 (a 6502-based wearable computer system completed in 1981) into a metal frame pack (welded-steel pipe construction), and powered it by lead-acid batteries. The power distribution system was constructed to also provide power for radio communications, both inbound and outbound, as well as for electronic flash (900 volts). I achieved power inversion by a combination of astable multivibrators (manufactured by Oaks and Dormitzer), and a matched pair of germanium power transistors salvaged from the inverter section of a tube-type automotive taxicab radiogif. At this time, a widespread practical use for battery operated computers had not yet been envisioned, and therefore there were no such ``portable'' computers available. The first portables (such as the Osborne computer, a unit about the size of a large toolbox) were yet to appear in the early 1980s.

Input comprised a collection of pushbutton switches (typically located on the handle of one of my specialized light sources, each one having its own ``keyboard'') which could be used to enter program instructions, as well as to take down notes (e.g. details about a particular photographic situation).

next up previous
Next: Situational awareness Up: Contrasting and comparing two Previous: The Eudaemons' shoe computer

Steve Mann
Tue Jan 6 23:24:56 EST 1998