I was sorry (though not, alas, surprised) that IBM’s “personal area network” never took off. This was a research project, demonstrated in the mid-90s, to transfer data through the body. The skin, more or less, can act as a conductor, allowing a low-power signal to travel between different devices being worn, or to an other person or device with which you are in physical contact. The sexy demo was exchanging business cards by shaking hands.
This was shortly before Bluetooth press appropriated ‘PAN’ to describe short-range wireless network (though much leakier and higher-powered), and this technology seems to have stayed in the labs.
I always perk up when a new input device is demonstrated, and this one made me think of IBM’s quondam project. Called ‘skinput’, it’s an interesting twist on human-computer interfaces: bio-acoustical sensing combined with a pico-projector to turn the skin of your arm into an input device. At the moment, the researchers (the project is a collaboration between Carnegie Mellon and Microsoft) have a prototype that distinguishes between five input points with a slick dynamic interface. Looks like they have a paper that will be presented at the upcoming CHI 2010.