Thursday, June 10, 2004

A Jet-Powered PDA for Astronauts: "Astronauts want to use handheld computers, said PSA lead systems engineer Keith Nicewarner. But they need their hands free to do experiments -- and they don't want their Treos to float aimlessly around the space station. The PSA, in contrast, can move around and hover in near-weightlessness, thanks to forced air jets about as strong as a small hair dryer's.

"Budget cuts mean astronauts in the station are overworked, and asked to keep on top of experiments and procedures that are so complex that 'it's impossible to remember all the steps,' Nicewarner said.

"The PSA, running on a Pentium II processor and GNU Linux OS, would store the steps instead, and use a built-in speaker or LCD screen to tell or show the astronauts what they need to do. The orb could also keep tabs on some experiments by itself. 'Instead of waking up the astronauts, you could have the PSA snap some pictures and send 'em down,' Nicewarner said. "

Think of a 1' diameter cherry-red whiffle-ball floating in mid-air. Try not to think of HAL.

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