When explorers Tina and Tom Sjogren set off on a two-month cross country skiing trek to the South Pole in 2001, Google Glass wasn’t yet even a twinkle in Google cofounder Sergey Brin’s eye.
But the Sjogrens cobbled together a bunch of different technologies to create a wearable computing system that could do many of the things Google Glass can do.
They wore it during their trip and used it continually upload photos and updates to their blog, so friends and family back home could keep track of their progress.
The Sjogren’s system consisted of a Windows 98 PC worn around the waist, a keyboard strapped around the wrist, a shoulder-based webcam, a head-mounted display, a Bluetooth personal area network, and a satellite phone.
It wasn’t easy getting all these things working with each other, but in the end, the Sjogren’s system worked as planned—despite the intense cold.
Wearable computing has come a long way since then. But as you’ll see from the following photos, what hasn’t changed is people’s ability to use tech in innovative ways to solve whatever obstacles stand in their way.
Before the trip, to sell corporate sponsor Ericsson on the idea, the Sjogrens drew this sketch of what they envisioned an explorer would look like in the future. There's a Windows PC around the waist, a head-mounted eye display, and a keyboard worn around the wrist. The whole thing would be solar powered.
The Sjogrens are pretty hardcore explorers. After getting the wearable computing system working, they took it for a test drive in the Himalayas. Here's Tina wearing the system at the Italian Pyramid, an observatory and research lab on the slopes of Mount Everest, altitude 16,568 feet.
It took several months to get the system wired up and working. That's just how it is when there are many different pieces of tech that need to talk to each other. This was also before PDAs were available.
The Sjogrens also set up the system so it could be controlled by voice commands. They wore the gear all the time because that was the only way to keep the PC and device batteries from freezing in the subzero temperatures. If that happened, everything would've stopped working.
Tom's system had a flat panel display and a keyboard worn on the wrist for writing updates during the trip. The whole system weighed about 15 pounds. That might not sound like much, but try carrying it around for two months in an extremely cold environment.
They used Iridium satellite phones to upload text and photos to the Web. Remember Iridium? Tom is pictured here wearing a satellite antenna and a nose-mounted compass. MacGyver would have been totally jealous.
After 63 days on skis, the Sjogrens made it to the South Pole. Here's Tina using the system to upload photos and updates using custom-built blogging software. The Sjogrens could also send files back and forth to each other using Bluetooth, which at the time was considered a game changing tech.
Here's Tina uploading the first-ever live blog updates from a skiing trek to the South Pole. Three months after they reached the South Pole, the Sjogrens went to the North Pole. Tina is also the first woman to complete what's known as the Three Poles Challenge, which is travelling to the North and South Pole and climbing Mount Everest.
The Sjogrens are getting tons of questions these days from people who've become fascinated with wearable computing because of Google Glass. But Tom says the tech and the skiiing didn't always mesh well together. They always had to stop skiing to use the tech, instead of using it on the fly like they'd imagined.
Sergey Brin loves Google Glass, but he's probably never worn it to the South Pole. Millions of penguins are disappointed about not having their photos surreptitiously taken by him.
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