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IBM Japan unveiled Friday a “wearable” personal computer prototype that the company believes is the world’s smallest and lightest computer based on the Windows 98 operating system.

The computer, the size of a Walkman, fits into a breast pocket and is equipped with headgear that holds a small-screen display in front of the user’s right eye.

The user inputs text via voice-recognition software developed by IBM, obviating the need for a keyboard. “The wearable PC we introduce today is (the result of) our pursuit of the ultimate form of portable personal computer,” said Natsuaki Sasaki, general manager of the Embedded Systems Business Unit of IBM Japan.

The prototype measures 26 mm by 80 mm by 120 mm and weighs 299 grams. But its performance is comparable to that of the Thinkpad 560X, IBM’s 1.9-kg notebook computer, the company said.

The product has Internet-access capability and allows e-mail to be read in a crowded commuter train without using a keyboard. In addition, engineers can refer to data using Windows 98 applications without interrupting other delicate tasks, Sasaki said.

The prototype is equipped with an MMX Pentium 233-MHz central processing unit, a 340-megabyte hard disk and a Universal Serial Bus port that can be connected to a variety of peripheral devices such as a keyboard.

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