In an interesting hire, Apple has quietly brought a wearable computing expert on board as a Senior Prototype Engineer and put him to work on a secret program. Computerworld's Seth Weintraub has learned
that Richard DeVaul, the developer of StepTrakLite and graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will be working for top Apple designer Jonathan Ive. According to the report, only nine people - including Ive and Steve Jobs - know about the project. Weintraub only found out about it by looking at DeVaul's LinkedIn profile
DeVaul worked at the Borglab at MIT developing "new techniques of human-computer interaction for body-worn applications." The MIThril project
worked with body-worn computation, sensing, and networking hardware integrated into a vest as a way of prototyping what "wearable computing" might be used for, and the best way to do development and user interface design for such a platform. Rich DeVaul's Memory Glasses project
was about a "wearable, proactive, context-aware memory aid" that used "squirt" active infrared tags to recognize people, places and things and project information on a heads-up display. DeVaul started up AWare Technologies after he got his Ph.D. from MIT, and delivered monitoring programs for the US Army, DARPA, and Olympic organizations. AWare developed an app, StepTrakLite
, that uses the accelerometer on an iPhone or iPod touch to accurately count the number of steps a user takes and determine the exercise intensity.
At Apple, Devaul works directly under Jonathan Ive, who was the principal designer of the iMac, aluminum and titanium PowerBook G4, MacBook, unibody MacBook Pro, iPod, iPhone, and iPad. The project is so secret, Computerworld
says, that "only seven people besides Ive and CEO Steve Jobs know what he is doing." Apple has been getting patents for wearable technology that indicate that the company at least has a research program for things like heads-up displays
and non-handheld portable devices
Apple has consistently shown that they can create markets by innovating whole new classes of products. The iPhone changed the way people think about mobile computing, and if Apple doesn't epically FAIL with the iPad, it will be yet another paradigm shifting product. So even if we're years away from something like "iGlasses" or whatever DeVaul is working on, Apple's clearly already thinking about that future.