Friday, February 11, 2011

The concept “connected” watches from Fossil

Fossil's concept watches

Fossil's concept watches (next to a Nexus S phone)

Fossil's concept watches

Fossil makes watches (amongst other things) and is one of the world’s highest-selling watch companies (they make watches under a variety of brands). You might even have one of them on your wrists. But there’s a small team who are trying to rethink what a watch is and could be.

There have been other attempts at wearable computers. I remember my dad always loved wearing a Casio calculator watch (popular amongst Silicon Valley engineers). While I worked at Microsoft they introduced the SPOT watches, that ultimately didn’t do well in the marketplace.

Vice President of Watch Technology, Bill Geiser, explained to me that they learned from earlier tries to put geeky technology into watches. He pulled out of his bag several other attempts, done by other companies. They all had easily-seen flaws. The earlier SPOT technology, which Bill worked on, had flaws that they are learning from. It was too thick, didn’t look like a great watch, the battery didn’t last long enough, and it wasn’t useful enough or flexible enough for developers to really do something interesting.

In this second visit to my house to show me what they are working on, he pulled a couple of watches out of his bag and showed them to me. They hook up to Android and RIM phones, via BlueTooth.

Listen to the audio interview I recorded with Bill and David Rosales, director of watch technology. In the recording you’ll hear more about what they are trying to do with these watches and why they are showing them around Silicon Valley months before they will turn into real products: they want developers to think about how they would use them and get in touch (leave a comment here and they’ll see it). Leave a good idea and they might even drop by your house and give you one of these concept watches.

Talk about constraints, though. You only have a few pixels to display information. A Tweet is even too long (you can display it, but you’ll have to scroll it, or have multiple screens).

Today’s rain in Half Moon Bay, though, reminded me why watches are interesting devices. I wouldn’t dare bring out my iPhone in a downpour. Or, on a ski lift with gloves on (I might drop it, which would make the trip really suck because it costs $600 to replace it). But, a watch could display important information, like my wife is calling, or give me a sense of the kinds of emails that are hitting my inbox. Calendar info. Weather info. Etc etc could be displayed.

The watches themselves, Bill told me in the interview, will cost “around $200.” I’m looking forward to getting mine. In the meantime it’s fun to dream about what could be displayed from my new Nexus S phone.

Are you interested in wearable connected devices like these? Why or why not?

Fossil's concept watches

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