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Hardware at Macworld

The most interesting hardware was harder to find, squirreled off in the corners of Moscone and even in local hotels. I saw some products and regretfully missed others.

Same BAT channel — I tried the full BAT keyboard at Infogrip’s booth and came away wanting to really put it through its paces. Infogrip was still having trouble with the ADB since Apple apparently hasn’t been terribly forthcoming, but the design was extremely comfortable since it incorporates a palm rest right with the keyboard. The keys had a decent feel to them – much nicer than the mushy keys on the miniBAT – and I felt that it wouldn’t be hard to figure out the chording system given an hour or two of practice. I believe that you can keep both the standard QWERTY keyboard and the BAT hooked up at the same time, so if you have to whip something out quickly before you’ve gotten up to speed on the BAT, you’ll be able to switch easily without having to restart and plug in the normal keyboard.

Infogrip — 504/766-8082

Cute Fax Modem — The award for the cutest product at the show goes to Mass Microsystems for their MASSfm 24/96, a strangely named but minuscule 2400 data/9600 fax modem. It’s a mere 3.5" tall and resembles a Quadra 900 from the hit movie, "Honey, I Shrunk The Mac." It appears to be a full-featured send and receive fax modem from the brochure with some advanced features like using power directly from the Mac’s serial port and the phone line, but being able to drop into a low power sleep mode when idle and wake up on a command or phone ring. I’d like to see it with higher speed data capabilities, and the Mass Microsystems people assured me that they would add that capability once they could figure out how to cram the chips into that mini Quadra case and still get the case to close, a problem my luggage and I struggled with as well.

Mass Microsystems — 800/522-7979 — 408/522-1200

Psychic Hardware — I think I’ve mentioned work being done on brainwave recognition once or twice (basically differentiation between two basic patterns, yes/no in one case, anxiety/confusion in the other). Psychic Lab showed a state-of-the-art electroencephalograph (EEG) and biofeedback system that accepts brainwave input from a sensor headband, transmit it to the computer (or to anything that can record audio), and then display it in any one of seven rendering modes. The coolest rendering mode is the 3D color graph that moves as more data comes in. The system, called the Interactive Brainwave Visual Analyzer (IBVA), is only an input and display device right now, but I’m sure that enterprising programmers could figure out more things to do with it in terms of interacting with a computer, virtual reality, or any of the health-related uses of biofeedback systems. Neat stuff, and I look forward to seeing more of it.

Psychic Lab Inc. — 212/353-1669

VPL Microcosm — I missed the demonstrations of Microcosm because they were held in one of the hotels rather than on the show floor, and I’m still kicking myself for it. Microcosm is VPL Research’s virtual reality system for the Macintosh. It’s not cheap at $58,000, but that price includes a Quadra 900, the EyePhone XVR for viewing virtual worlds, the DataGlove XVR for manipulating objects in those worlds, and software to design your own virtual worlds. I’m curious about how they manage three dimensional sound – that is, sound that has a single source that you can pinpoint as you walk around rather than seeming to come from all around you. I’m sorry I missed it, but I’ll try to check it out sometime and report on it further. Alternately, if you have $58,000 burning a hole in your pocket…

VPL Research — 415/361-1710

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