Nearly 30 years ago, a Texan named Vernon Reed made a necklace with a liquid-crystal display at the center. By 1990, after a series of one-off LCD jewelry creations, he quit the business. "My jeweler peers did not understand what I was up to, and computer artists were put off by the whole notion of jewelry," he said.
Finally, high-tech jewelry may have come of age. Inspired by the runaway success of the camera phone, cell-phone giant Nokia has launched Imagewear, a line of necklaces that work like 21st century lockets. Crafted around color LCDs, each necklace can receive and display images from phones and other devices.
Medallion I is the first Imagewear product, and it will be followed later in the summer by Medallion II (each $299 at nokiausa.com) The rugged devices are made of steel and matte rubber, with backlighted screens 96 pixels square and storage for up to eight pictures. The necklace sends image files via infrared. (We tested it successfully with a Nokia 3660 phone and a PalmOne Zire 31, but most infrared-equipped phones and handhelds should work.) To receive a picture, you press the button above the tiny frame. Since it's square, your shots are automatically cropped, which can be a nuisance. Also, to conserve battery life (up to 15 hours), the backlight goes on only when you push a button.
The third Imagewear accessory, scheduled for a late-summer launch, is Kaleidoscope I ($299). Like its namesake, it has a hole at one end that you peer through, but there's no psychedelic fragmenting of images; it's more like a one-eyed View-Master. The Kaleidoscope can hold up to 24 pictures at once, received via infrared. In addition, it accepts MultiMediaCards, so you could load up pics on a compatible PDA or camera, then view them on your necklace.
Nokia is also introducing a slightly more traditional device, a digital picture frame. The world has seen its fair share of connected LCD frames, from the dial-up-modem-equipped Ceiva to the wi-fi-ready Wallflower. Nokia's SU-4 Image Frame ($239) simplifies the process, with the same infrared connectivity found in the Imagewear line. The SU-7, due later this year, will be equipped with a cell phone. For $399--plus the cost of the service--you can set one up and send pictures to it via multimedia messaging. Of course, that's only if the frame isn't out of the service area.