Enter the maze

Intelligent dust, intelligent jewellery

A ring computer?

Computers are small and getting smaller. No longer are they the big bulky things that fill desks. Already they fit in your pocket, programmed to work as MP3 players and mobile phones, watches and more. They are already smaller than that though. There is one on your credit card - you can see the chip. Others are used to tag DVDs in shops and sound the alarm if they walk out the door. Smaller still? Well, Intel already have ones, called Motes, that are the size of a grain of rice. Their aim over the next few years is to have ones that are the size of a fleck of dust and yet be as powerful as any big desk-top computer.

But what use is such a tiny dust-sized computer?

Imagine the day, some time in the near future when these dust computers exist. They will be massively cheap too - the way computers are made means that they get cheaper as they get smaller. I might be able to hold a pile of dust in my hand - each one a computer. Millions of them. Each one might be sensing the world around it, communicating with the others and with bigger computers near by, calculating, computing.

They know you know

Now imagine I turn up at your school and stand at the back of the class. I throw that pile of dust into the air. They float around the room, landing in your hair and your clothes. Some land on the floor and chairs but carry on sensing, carry on communicating. Now you leave, but the computers go with you and still they carry on communicating with each other, and with any computer they pass, tracking, filming, sensing. You pass a video poster on the wall and your dust computer tells it where you've been and what you were doing. It knows you were playing with a Nintendo so the poster starts showing the latest game it thinks you might like. The next poster you pass advertizes jeans as the dust computer tells it you were in a clothes store trying them on at lunch time but didn't buy any. Wherever you go, the ads show things you are interested in.

A ring is the thing

Here is another idea. Why not program a dust computer to work as an MP3 player and store all your downloads on it. Hmmm, but what use is it so small - wouldn't you lose it? No problem. Embed it in your ring. Tap the ring and the computer start playing tracks into your earpiece. Stroke it and it skips to the next track. Why stick with one? Put all your happy music on one ring and your mellow music on another. Just use the ring to match your mood. Why stop at rings? The rest of your jewellery could do something useful too.

Better idea?

What use is such a tiny dust sized computer? Who knows, but they will be here soon so the computer scientists are working on things to do with them and working too on how to turn their ideas into reality. Intelligent jewellery is just one possibility. Maybe you have some ideas of your own? Become a computer scientist and you might just make it happen.