Apple's done something weird, and yet nerdishly cool at the same time: It's hired a Senior Prototype Scientist with expertise in wearable computing. Knowing Apple's innovative heritage this gives us happy Tron-imagining shivers.
The chap in question is engineer/physicist Richard DeVaul, a PhD-touting graduate of Texas A&M University and MIT. His LinkedIn profile gave the game away. Among his stated business credentials like "leadership for early stage companies," "tech startup CTO" and other good stuff, we find some absolute gems in terms of technology expertise: "product development for mobile & wearable technology" and "Student leader and organizer of the MIThril wearable computing project" are the most precious of these. His own Web page reveals he worked on "new human-computer interaction techniques for wearable, mobile and portable applications." We also know that during his time as founder and president of AWare technologies he worked to "deliver effective behavior-change solutions for increasing fitness" and his company also had "one of the most popular health-and-fitness iPhone apps, StepTrakLite."
So what exactly is he doing at Apple? We can but guess—Apple is fiercely secretive about the kind of future-facing cutting edge research that DeVaul is almost certainly working on. But looking at Apple's vast and creative patent archive, DeVaul's expertise, and knowing Apple's conscious of the trend toward more and more computing happening while mobile, we can imagine all sorts of potential exciting Apple kit. Maybe Apple's looking at utilizing on-body local networking (something DeVaul already owns a patent in,) to communicate between different mobile Apple devices carried about your person, or between, say, your iPhone and a secure touch-sensitive lock using near-field comms. Or possibly it's looking at the display market, and imagining a head-worn display system for future iPhones or iPads. Perhaps Apple's designers have seen trends like recent touch-panel on-arm controls, and they're imagining future body-control interfaces for the iPhone. The sky is literally the limit when dreaming up this sort of equipment.
The only way we'll probably find out what DeVaul is up to, though, will be by combing through Apple's future patent applications: While wearable computing initiatives are guaranteed to fire up your inner imaginative nerd and get him all excited, it's unlikely that we'll be seeing any of this faintly Tron-like stuff for years. After all, even in our Wi-fi signal-soaked World, Apple's not even enabled wireless syncing on the iPhone yet.
Ed Note: Yes, we know Tron's characters were computer programs, rather than "wearing" computers. But there's no movie of Snow Crash yet, so there aren't any cool visuals.