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How Digital Jewelry Will Work




The combination of shrinking computer devices and increasing computer power has allowed several companies to begin producing fashion jewelry with embedded intelligence. Today, manufacturers can place millions of transistors on a microchip, which can be used to make small devices that store tons of digital data. Researchers have already created an array of digital-jewelry prototypes. “We’ve made one of almost everything except tongue rings,” says Dan Russell, senior manager of IBM’s Almaden Research Lab, where IBM is developing digital-jewelry technology.

Digital Jewelry

Russell says that digital jewelry is the beginning of the disintegration of the personal computer into tiny pieces. In this edition of How Stuff WILL Work, you will get a look at these new microdevices that could soon be adorning your body, and see how they will make daily communication and computing even more ubiquitous.

Give Me a Ring

Soon, cell phones will take a totally new form, appearing to have no form at all. Instead of one single device, cell phones will be broken up into their basic components and packaged as various pieces of digital jewelry. Each piece of jewelry will contain a fraction of the components found in a conventional mobile phone, according to IBM. Together, the digital-jewelry cell phone should work just like a conventional cell phone.

Let’s look at the various components that are inside a cell phone:

  • Microphone
  • Receiver
  • Touchpad
  • Display
  • Circuit board
  • Antenna
  • Battery

IBM has developed a prototype of a cell phone that consists of several pieces of digital jewelry that will work together wirelessly, possibly with Bluetooth wireless technology, to perform the functions of the above components.

Here are the pieces of IBM’s computerized-jewelry phone and their functions:

  • EarringsSpeakers embedded into these earrings will be the phone’s receiver.
  • Necklace – Users will talk into the necklace’s embedded microphone.
  • Ring – Perhaps the most interesting piece of the phone, this “magic decoder ring” is equipped with light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that flash to indicate an incoming call. It can also be programmed to flash different colors to identify a particular caller or indicate the importance of a call.
  • Bracelet – Equipped with a video graphics array (VGA) display, this wrist display could also be used as a caller identifier that flashes the name and phone number of the caller.

With a jewelry phone, the keypad and dialing function could be integrated into the bracelet, or else dumped altogether — it’s likely that voice-recognition software will be used to make calls, a capability that is already commonplace in many of today’s cell phones. Simply say the name of the person you want to call and the phone will dial that person. IBM is also working on a miniature rechargeable battery to power these components. Click here to see a RealPlayer video about IBM’s digital-jewelry project.

In addition to changing the way we make phone calls, digital jewelry will also affect how we deal with the ever-increasing bombardment of e-mail. Imagine that the same ring that flashes for phone calls could also inform you that e-mail is piling up in your inbox. This flashing alert could also indicate the urgency of the e-mail. In the next section, we will look at an IBM ring intended to change the way you interface with your computer.

For more Details: How Digital Jewelry Will Work

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