A Sacramento, Calif., technology company has been granted patents on several wearable computers, most notably a credit card terminal that once it is developed into a commercial product could be strapped to waiters wrists so they could process credit card transactions and print receipts right at the restaurant tables.
The company, Orang-Otang Computers Inc., already markets Peel-It, a cuff that lets people wear a personal digital assistant like a wristwatch; Durango, a wrist mount for bar code scanners; and Big Stuff, a carrying case for gadgets that clips on a belt loop. Among other products, the company plans to introduce the CuffCam Wearable Camera, the Flippo Universal Remote Control, and the Jango Credit Card Terminal.
The last will be a small credit card terminal, about the size of a Palm Pilot, mounted on canvas or leather. It will be capable of wireless transmission and will have a keypad, credit card swipe, and receipt printer.
The wearable credit card terminal is a commercial application, and its value can be quantified in real dollars, said Shelley Harrison, co-founder and chief executive officer of the six-year-old company. Its a multimillion-dollar, time-saving, killer application.
Mr. Harrison said a waiter would be able to process a customers credit card at the table and complete in five seconds what is otherwise a three-minute transaction.
The wearable card terminal is in the prototype stage, and no date has been set for its commercial release.
Mr. Harrison said that Orang-Otang products can be worn like clothing, which distinguishes them from those marketed by WearLogic Inc., a company in Wakefield, Mass., that markets the SmartWear wallet a leather wallet embedded with a computer screen and keypad. We use the term wearable to define technology that is hands-free, Mr. Harrison said. We think carryable technology is obsolete at this point. Handheld is interim technology, its a step to wearable.
A third company, Xybernaut Corp. of Fairfax, Va., offers a voice-controlled personal computer that people can wear on their heads. Their model represents the other guys in the wearable computing space, Mr. Harrison said.
He said Xybernaut has most of the patents in this area, but its wearable computers are headgear, whereas Orang-Otang computers are made to be worn on the arm. Certain applications will be more adapted to their model and some to ours, Mr. Harrison said. We will split the market.
Mr. Harrison has a somewhat arcane explanation for the companys oddball name, which he says reflects a desire to return people to their ancestral primitive roots by freeing them from deskbound computer machinery.
I dont like sitting at my desk, Mr. Harrison said. Wearable technology is essential to being a person again. When you sit behind a desk, youre part of the machine, and its hard to tell who is working for whom.
Before starting Orang-Otang, Mr. Harrison managed eBays VeRO program, which is meant to help intellectual property owners protect their rights. He is the primary inventor of Orang-Otangs patented wearables.
I put myself in the place of technology users, and I work to make life easier in the work place, Mr. Harrison said.
Mr. Harrison said he and his partner, Scott Hollifield, are actively seeking outside investors. We have recently been working with a partner and if the deal closes, it will make the credit card terminal a reality a lot quicker than expected, Mr. Harrison said.
Theodore Iacobuzio, a senior analyst at TowerGroup in Needham, Mass., said Orang-Otang is going to have to prove that there is a need for the wrist card terminal. Its an interesting idea, but there are many issues in wireless that are going to have to be worked out before anything like this can happen, he said. Until then this is just a novelty product.