Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A walk down Smart Watch memory lane.

Meta Watch Frame (White)

Eight years ago I flew to Dallas TX and sat down with a truly inspiring guy. His name was Bill Geiser.

Bill Geiser is (in my opinion) the smartest and most influential person in interactive wearables today.

Back then, Bill was heading up what I thought was the most important division within Fossil.  He and a fellow named David Rosales (who is also smart as hell) had been spearheading the development of high tech wearables for Fossil and had arranged to meet with me to review a few of my crazy (but very forward thinking) ideas.  I have been considering how important that meeting was today.

At the time I had just completed a line of secret decoder rings with Stan Lee called Power Patrol and my goal was to see if Fossil might be able to manufacture and even craft a retail distribution deal with Stan and I.

In the meeting, I remember Bill predicting the importance people place on watches and being very careful and pragmatic with infusing "technology" into wearables.  We talked about Microsoft's SPOT watch and the PALM watch that they manufactured and marketed.  I owned both of these watches by the way and have always been an early adopter of wearable technology.  I favored the SPOT watch developed by Suunto.

I remember thinking to myself that most all of the information Bill was sharing with me was inevitably going to happen.  These two guys were on the cusp of developing the very first Bluetooth connected wrist watch....waaay back then and were verifiable trendsetters!  That was literally 8 years ago.  I found it refreshing and super exciting that these two individuals were so adamant about creating the future AND had the chops to back it up.  It's not to often that I run across people that I am impressed with.  Bill and David are two special people and very valuable in the realm of connected wearables.  You'll see!

Some of my Interactive Wearables

In fact, the second reason I was interested in meeting with Bill was to convince Fossil to help me build a prototype of socially connected watch that I codenamed BlogWatch.  This watch would essentially push relevant content (populated by people I collected into a closed social network) to my wrist and activate special "glanceable" icons that correspond to my interests.  I would then be able to review these short cards of information on the watch.  Sound familiar?

Back then there were no smart phones with app based business models and bluetooth was just getting launched into the main stream.  I had not contemplated using bluetooth at all for BlogWatch.  I was considering using the still in tact Pager Network via US Mobility that I thought had an extremely well developed infrastructure and creatively being used successfully by a MIT whiz named David Rose at Ambient Devices for stocks, weather, and other custom data channels.

Here are a few renderings of the BlogWatch I was working on back then.

I thought it would make a fantastic kids product to hook into short messaging, gossip, headlines, email, and even socially connected games back in 2005.  I built a working prototype and core application to demonstrate my thought process.

As usual, I was too early and most of the companies that I had tried to pitch to just didn't get it.  I remember a telephone call with a toy company exec telling me...and I quote:
"John...why would anyone care to wear a watch for data when they could just check their PC and more importantly what do you really mean by socially connected devices..???  I have a better idea...Let's turn it into a fantasy football hand held game!"
I can't blame them.  Why the hell would a toy company be interested in a watch unless it was sold in the toy aisle...much less have to retail for practically chump change.  More over, why would I expect them to understand social networks and the crashing wave of smart phones 2 years later...?

The ONLY person that really understood it was Bill Geiser.  He was already working on it!

Bill and David were adamant about connected devices, the true utility of a WATCH and why most companies that attempt to enter this space have to be careful in designing what really matters to a person who wears a watch.

For me, it is very clear what an interactive watch MUST be:

  • I love the design of my watch and it cant be or look like a hunk of shit on my wrist.
  • Glaceable data into my filed of view with gentle design and subtle alerts
  • Fit and Finish must be well though out and mass manufacturable.
  • Smart watches have to be comfortable and able to withstand a normal beating day after day.
  • Watches are in fact a fashion statement and most probably different for everyone.  Finding the sweet spot is really hard and has to be really well thought out for both men and women.  Kids can keep buying the toycos watches for pennies on the dollar.
  • Charging must be absolutely simple (hopefully wireless).
  • Updating firmware must be easy and seamless.
  • An app ecosystem and platform must be well documented for developers and app deployment simple.
  • Stylizing colors and aesthetically pleasing watch faces is mandatory.
  • ...I am sure there are more reasons...but it's been a long day...

Since that day I am proud to say that Meta Watch is clearly the ONLY watch that is designed by wearable devices veterans and people who clearly understand the market,  mass manufacturing, an wearable app platform, and the necessary design methodology.

Click on the Pic for meta Watch Website

To make this story even MORE interesting...I was on a plane traveling from Helsinki Finland to London last October / November.  I had been presenting a technology platform that I was working on to a company called Rovio there.  Talk about a company who has been successful in propagating their brand everywhere, on almost anything, and is hoping with all their might to become the next Walt Disney:

Click here for an interesting read

By complete chance, I remet Bill on that plane!  It was so great to reconnect.

I expect great things from META WATCH and will monitor them closely as they are the ones to "watch" in this space.

Here is the company's manifesto:

MetaWatch Manifesto

A little bit about where the opportunity of wearable technology is going:

I am excited that there are many companies entering this space.  It appears that there will finally be a huge market for wearable devices.  There certainly has been quite a bit of buzz about it.

The data on the success of the wearable technology market is very exciting.  I for one will not sit still in continuing to innovate within it!

Source BI Intelligence

Finally, I was thinking to myself how remarkably similar the Gear was to one of the Smart Watches that Bill showed me 8 years go.

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