CES 2007: Hands on with Eleksen's Windows SideShow smart bag

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eleksen-bag.jpgOne of the more intriguing features of Windows Vista is Windows SideShow, which allows auxiliary devices to display information received wirelessly from a Windows Vista laptop or PC. Al’s just done a post on some of its uses in other gadgets.

Smart fabrics firm Eleksen has incorporated the technology into a bag – or at least has created the module that will allow actual bag manufacturers to do it. For those of you with long memories, you might remember Eleksen head honcho Robin Shephard alluding to it when we interviewed him last year.

“The way it works is it exports data from your laptop, which you can keep in the bag, to the screen on the outside,” John Collins, VP of marketing and business development at Eleksen, told me when I visited the company’s CES stand. “You can have it waking up regularly to refresh the data, or just synchronise it once at the start of the day, and have that data on the bag screen all day.”

eleksen-bag-screen.jpgEleksen’s module is called the Wearable Display Module (WDM). It’s a 2.46-inch Active TFT LCD screen (pictured), with 1GB of storage for data files, and a fabric touchpad allowing the bag owner to control what’s displayed on the screen, or interact with their laptop.

According to Collins, examples of how it’ll be used include showing emails, calendar appointments and contact data on the screen, although he says Microsoft has been demoing it with more ambitious uses, such as displaying blogs.

Bag manufacturers can take the WDM as is, or use it as a reference design to customise. “A bag will be available in Q2 2007 from one of our customers,” says Collins. “Manufacturers can take it the way it is, or modify it to add more features, or focus on a specific use like music or business.”

You might notice that the screen is upside down on Eleksen’s bag sample. But if you think about how you’d use it when wearing the bag, it makes perfect sense. Details of how much a WDM-equipped bag will cost won’t be available until the first commercial one is announced, but adding SideShow tech will add to the price.

“Of course, this adds expense to the bag, but then it’s not really just a bag any more,” says Collins. “It’s an auxiliary device to your computer in its own right. It sits in this space somewhere between your old bag, and your computer, so it’ll be more expensive than a regular messenger bag or backpack.”

Eleksen website

Tech Digest CES coverage

Stuart Dredge