Obscure computing device fantasies


Binky

Death's Steed
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The pandora (and soon the pyra) fills in a gap in the consumer electronics market that not many people care about.

A pocket-sized device with open software and with rich and flexible IO hardware is almost exactly what I (and most other people here) want. However there are other (technically feasible) devices I'd love to be available but, as far as I know, aren't.

I thought it would be interesting to start a general thread for such things, since I imagine other folks here have similar desires for unconventional computing devices. 

I'll start with this:

A programmable watch with a long battery life

I would like a wristwatch that not only tells the time, but can run small programmes and store small ammounts of data provided by the user.

Critical specs would be:

  • Battery life of at least 8 months, preferably longer
  • At least 20 buttons or keys
  • Graphic display
  • Interface for connecting to external computing equipment
  • At least several KB non-volatile memory
  • Capable of running software written and compiled on an external computer, or locally
Suggested features might be:

  • eInk display
  • serial connection over 2.5mm TRS jack
  • Radio reciver for broadcast time signals
  • 200mAh rechargable Li-Po cell
Possible applications might be:

  • Various PIM tools
  • Scientific&graphing calulator (RPN, naturally)
  • Puzzle games (e.g. sudoku)
  • Mass data storage for external access (only really makes sense if it has a USB port)

Comparable existing (or discontinued) products include:



Other devices people might want:

  • Very small, low power palmtop (smaller, lighter, more pocketable than a pandora, more like a nanonote)
  • A subnetbook with a 7" screen or so
  • A modern lunchbox computer (full PCIe slots, upgradable standard motherboard, etc)
 
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FaeMinx

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I want a lightweight thin A4 eInk digital sketchpad. It must have battery life of at least 50% a comparable ebook reader. With at least 512 levels of pressure sensitivity. It has at least 8 programmable buttons, and a slide wheel / touch strip. It has at least 4gb on board storage and 1 usb equivalent port. It runs a monochrome sketchbook pro equivalent.
 

_wb_

Microbe
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The pandora (and soon the pyra) fills in a gap in the consumer electronics market that not many people care about.

A pocket-sized device with open software and with rich and flexible IO hardware is almost exactly what I (and most other people here) want. However there are other (technically feasible) devices I'd love to be available but, as far as I know, aren't.

I thought it would be interesting to start a general thread for such things, since I imagine other folks here have similar desires for unconventional computing devices. 

I'll start with this:

A programmable watch with a long battery life

I would like a wristwatch that not only tells the time, but can run small programmes and store small ammounts of data provided by the user.

Critical specs would be:

  • Battery life of at least 8 months, preferably longer
  • At least 20 buttons or keys
  • Graphic display
  • Interface for connecting to external computing equipment
  • At least several KB non-volatile memory
  • Capable of running software written and compiled on an external computer, or locally
Suggested features might be:

  • eInk display
  • serial connection over 2.5mm TRS jack
  • Radio reciver for broadcast time signals
  • 200mAh rechargable Li-Po cell
Sounds great! I wouldn't mind having less buttons on it than 20. Would rather have a µUSB port (which could be used for data transfer and to connect a keyboard to it) than a TRS jack, and I wonder if the radio and battery life are compatible goals.

Oh and it should run GNU/Linux, if possible.
 

Binky

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Many conventional watches have a radio reciver that fires up every hour to recieve the time signal, and then shuts off again. They don't seem to suffer too badly from the extra power consumption.

Running radio transmitters, or proper OSes sounds completely impractical.

(0.2AmpHour*3.7Volts)/(24Hours*365)=84µW

Thats a very small power envelope for a big, complicated operating system - about 10,000 times smaller than a typical smartphone/etc

As to USB, why not use the cable and plug as a strap and clasp, respectively?

20 buttons is as many as most calculator watches (4x4 keypad + four menu buttons), and keeps the whole unit comfortably compact

---

I like the idea of the digital sketchbook though. if the whole thing is going to be 40cm diagonal or so, you can fit in a very large battery before it becomes too thick. In fact, if you didn't have a thick case, it would become unfomforable to hold!

lithium-ion batteries have an every density of around 1MJ/L

a 30cm by 20cm by 0.5mm battery has a volume of 0.3L

so thats 300kJ

if your graphics-processing CPU is gobbling a whole W of power (of course, the screen needs very little power), then that battery will last 300000seconds- which comes to about three days of heavy, continuous use
 
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ThinkPad

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If you exclude the "computer functions" from your dream watch, G-Shock Rangeman should be the one.

GW9400-1_xlarge.png


It is rugged

It is Solar.

Have 7-8 months of battery life in complete darkness.

have radio receiver for calibration with the atomic clock.

Altimeter, Barometer, Compass and temperature readings.
 

benoitb

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Trolling: I'd like to have matte screen :p

Seriously: I would like outdoor readable low power screens, on my laptop and smartphone. To be able to work outdoor instead of inside my home/office and when on the go like on bicycle trips.

PixelQi promised it but they failed it seems and this is a real shame.
 

Binky

Death's Steed
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If you exclude the "computer functions" from your dream watch, G-Shock Rangeman should be the one.

The same thing could be said of the mains-powered computer on my desk with the dedicated GPU, terabytes of storage and its plethora of peripherals, if we are to remove the "wristwatch functions".

While that may be a good watch, I really don't see how it fits my specifications, beyond recieving time signals and being wrist-mounted.

I don't need it to be solar powered, or rugged, or contain pressure/magnetic-field sensors.

(Unless I'm missing something)
 

rygD

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The watch isn't my thing.  I can't stand things on my wrists, and for me the display (and input) size makes it impractical for any real use.

Palmtops are of interest to me, although I have found that I don't really like them much smaller, probably for some of the same reasons as the watch.  I would rather have something less powerful than go for a smaller display/keyboard, but it depends on how they function.

I would personally have no use for a smaller version of netbook that is larger than a Pandora/Pyra.  It lacks the pocketability, and the increased screen size is not worth it to me.  I would rather go for a Pyra with a larger portable monitor for when I want something a bit easier on the eyes (or just plug into a normal monitor/TV).

Lunchbox computers are still around for specialized purposes, and I have wanted some, old and new, for decades, but never acquired one.  The newer ones are way out of my price range, and the older ones take up too much space for what they offer.  I prefer things I have more of an attachment to, such as the old computers and consoles I already own.  If I cleared up some space I would probably get one or more.

Now I guess I should read the rest of the thread.
 

_wb_

Microbe
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I don't like things on my wrist either. But my girlfriend/wife is a huge fan of Casio calculator watches, so something like that but better would certainly be great.

Many conventional watches have a radio reciver that fires up every hour to recieve the time signal, and then shuts off again. They don't seem to suffer too badly from the extra power consumption.

Running radio transmitters, or proper OSes sounds completely impractical.

(0.2AmpHour*3.7Volts)/(24Hours*365)=84µW

Thats a very small power envelope for a big, complicated operating system - about 10,000 times smaller than a typical smartphone/etc

As to USB, why not use the cable and plug as a strap and clasp, respectively?

20 buttons is as many as most calculator watches (4x4 keypad + four menu buttons), and keeps the whole unit comfortably compact
I'm not saying a full GNU/Linux with all whistles and bells, but rather something like this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%CE%9CClinux

I wonder what kind of power something like an ARM Cortex-M3 would use when it's running Linux and just being idle most of the time.

Using the USB cable/plug as a wrist strap and clasp is a brilliant idea! Could it have a full-size USB-port on one side and a µUSB port on the other? With a USB-to-µUSB cable in between that is the wrist strap? That way you could connect it easily to both sizes of USB ports.

---

I would be interested in a device that combines some smartphone features with dumbphone battery life, as a companion device for the Pandora/Pyra.

E.g. something with a large (5-6" or so) e-ink screen that consumes nearly no power, a built-in decent camera which can also be used as a USB camera. It would have a weak/power-friendly cpu, with little RAM and little persistent storage. You would tether it to your Pyra via bluetooth (most of the time) or USB (when bluetooth is too slow, e.g. when using it as a camera), and it would use the Pyra's cellphone connection for making calls (it would basically be a bluetooth headset). You could use it as an extra screen for the Pyra, useful in bright daylight, when black&white is good enough (e.g. when reading a book or a Wikipedia article), or when an extra screen is useful (e.g. to show a PDF manual or game walkthrough). It could be used as a webcam for videoconferencing (perhaps it could clip onto the Pyra lid in some clever way so that the camera faces the Pyra user), or as a regular camera (using the Pyra screen to see what you're aiming at).

So basically it would be a compact e-reader with built-in camera and mic/speaker. Does that exist already?
 

rygD

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I don't like things on my wrist either. But my girlfriend/wife is a huge fan of Casio calculator watches, so something like that but better would certainly be great.
I tried to wear one for a while when I was younger, and that was probably when I learned that it bug me to have things there. I also had a G-Shock for a while that spent more time off my wrist than on it.  I tried a couple more times with a couple other watches, but I prefer them in my pocket or on a bag or something, and now I have other options.

Those type of wrist mounted devices are great for a lot of people.  I am not one of them.  I was giving feedback as a response to the original post.

Edit:

So basically it would be a compact e-reader with built-in camera and mic/speaker. Does that exist already?
I think something like what you described was mentioned in another thread (possibly by you).  It might be interesting.  I probably wouldn't need one, but it is a better option than some of the other options.
 
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dgame

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How about a pocket watch styled nano comuputer in a sweet rero styled case? The clamshell design could have keypad and battery on the thicker base side and the screen on the thinner lid. The cord/chain could be used for charging and connectivty, etc.

open_pocketwatch0876.jpg
 
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fusion_power

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How about a pocket watch styled nano comuputer in a sweet rero styled case? The clamshell design could have keypad and battery on the thicker base side and the screen on the thinner lid. The cord/chain could be used for charging and connectivty, etc.

open_pocketwatch0876.jpg
Hey, that's my Idea! XD Had the idea since ages, even before Smartphones came out. An stylish Pocket Watch but with digital display and actualy a handy computer. ^^"With todays Technology this shouldn't be any issue to make. The traditional clamshell design of an pockt watch also helps to make an nice smartphone out of it. Teh shell could have an keyboard built in for example or a 2. display, who knows. :)
 

elw3

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Today on the flea marked i found a multimeter pocketwatch and was a hairline away from buying it...
 

comradekingu

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Surreptitious blowing of cartridge, slowly but surely, captivating, little drivels of spit fly off, as if caught in the frenzy and serene moment of it all. In with cartridge, as if to suggest the next move. Sweaty palms reaching for lever, action. Tubes warming up, pnemautic sylinders actuating, bellows filling up, only to release alongside mad laughter.
 

Klumpen

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The only reason I'd wear a wrist watch again would be if it could run an optimized rockbox and play ogg and flac from the gig-wise biggest available microSD, had a display for the track information, a long battery life, great audio quality and send it via bluetooth to a proper set of headphones.

Showing the time, date and weekday would be a nice feature too.
 
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