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Computing gets bulletproof guarantee

Sure, your fancy new laptop has the latest multimedia doodads. But can it stop a bullet? The latest in high-tech body armor promises to do just that.

Sure, your fancy new laptop has a glitzy screen and all the latest multimedia doodads. But can it stop a bullet?

That's the promise Xybernaut, a specialist in "wearable" PCs, is making from the partnership it announced Thursday with Central Lakes, Mich.-based Second Chance Body Armor, the leading U.S. manufacturer of body armor for law enforcement and the military. Xybernaut's body-mounted computer systems will be integrated into Second Chance's high-tech body armor to give soldiers and police a safe and highly portable computing system.

"They've created a version of their body armor that is not only protecting the individual but includes support and protection for the computing device," said Xybernaut spokesman Michael Binko. "It can stop a .44 Magnum round or a 9mm full-metal jacket, which covers a good portion of what you might face if you're a soldier or a police officer on patrol."

Fairfax, Va.-based Xybernaut has worked for more than a decade to popularize the idea of wearable computers. A typical system includes a CPU that can be mounted on a belt or vest, a wrist-mounted keyboard or microphone for data input, and a small head-mounted display.

Binko said the company has about 3,000 systems in use, mostly by workers such as shipping clerks and aircraft repair technicians who benefit from mobile, hands-free access to data.

Original backers included the U.S. Army, which uses the systems for field repair technicians and other noncombat positions. But military and police have become increasingly interested in using the systems to feed intelligence and other data to soldiers and officers in the field, creating demand for a system that can withstand major abuse and possible enemy fire.

"For somebody in a tactical role, having a full PC equivalent that's body worn and gives you a number of options for accessing the data can be a huge advantage," Binko said.