A Japanese university has shown off a tiny personal computer that is worn on the ear and isn't much larger than many Bluetooth headsets, but it can be controlled with the blink of an eye or the click of a tongue.
The 17 gram device, creatively called "Earclip-type Wearable PC," is the creation of Kazuhiro Taniguchi of Hiroshima City University and made by NS West, a machinery company. The device has Bluetooth and comes with a GPS, compass, gyrosensor, battery, barometer, speaker and microphone. It can be connected to a smartphone or other gadget and would allow the user to navigate through software programs using facial expressions, such as a raised eyebrow, tongue, nose or mouth movement.
While it looks like a Bluetooth headset, the Wearable PC design is based on Japanese ikebana philosophy. Ikebana is an art form of flower arrangement that emphasizes shape, line and form through the careful arrangement of the flowers, with focus on the color combinations and lines, not just the flowers themselves.
Most Americans won't care about that part beyond it looks nice. The Japan Times reports Taniguchi said "We have made this with the basic idea that people will wear it in the same way they wear earrings."
The concept behind the device is that since it does not use any input from the user's hands and takes its input from movements of the face means it can serve as "a third hand" for its users, making it ideal for people whose hands might otherwise be full, or if they don't have use of their hands.
The earpiece can also function as a hearing aid and health monitor, watching the wearer's pulse, blood pressure and respiration. It keeps a log of certain actions and notes changes in eating or sneezing or changes in temperature, providing an early indication of an illness.
One thing not being disclosed as yet: the processor or OS. But given that it will work with a smartphone or some other device, like a tablet, they may just leave the compute work to the smartphone or other device.
Tests are being carried out in Hiroshima, with the aim of having something out by Christmas 2015 and commercializing the device from April 2016. Of course, that's for Japan. Japan is notorious for keeping its best toys to itself for a few years before sharing it with the rest of the world.