IS THIS THE DAWN OF THE PERSONABLE COMPUTER?
Most portable personal computers are hardly "personal." Take their appearance. Their clunky clamshell configuration--used by almost every PC manufacturer--hardly invites one to reach out and use it. And S. Joy Mountford, manager of Apple Computer Inc.'s Human Interface Group says: "People refuse to use new technology if it's not compelling and easy to use." That's why Mountford challenged student design teams from seven schools, including New York University and London's Royal College of Art to envision "the computer of the future" in Apple's first annual Interface Design Project.
The result? Portable PCs with gently rounded ergonomic shapes, tailored for ultimate comfort and ease of use for specific tasks. For example, SignSpeak--one of the winning designs developed by a team from Carnegie-Mellon University--uses a belt-mounted computer and sensor-laden glove to translate sign language into speech. It also converts spoken words to text. Mountford says that the project has been so successful, Apple will repeat it with more schools next year.EDITED BY PAUL M. ENG