Pebble is a fully customizable e-paper watch that interacts with your smartphone.
It's hard to remember, but there was once a time, at least according to Dick Tracy, when we thought we might be speaking into our watches to communicate with each other. That vision of the future seemed to be a distant memory when cell phones came along.
Pebble, an e-paper watch, might just get us talking into our watches again. Brought to us by the same folks who developed the Blackberry-ready inPulse watch, Pebble is a fully customizable interface that syncs up with an iPhone or Android phone via Bluetooth. The 144×168 pixel display may be small but the device can stream plenty of data, with features to rival its smartphone 'host organism.' The developers suggest apps for exercise, among other things, where the e-paper provides a lighter display that is easier to read in bright sunlight. The watch can even interact with your phone's caller ID or an mp3 player to control music over Bluetooth.
But the killer app is that anyone can make an app, and that's where the potential lies. Aside from what you can download from their watchapp store, you can create your own functions using if this then that or tap into the full SDK, using a familiar structure from Arduino and simple C. That means savvy developers can customize the four buttons, motor and accelerometer for any number of uses.
There's certainly a watch renaissance happening right now, with the TikTok+LunkTik Watch Kits and Pebble showing how watches can be interactive with repurposed 21st century technology. Others, like the Tread watch and NOOKA app I reviewed, try to find new ways to visualize time, and some, like this Braille watch, try to make the watch accessible to those with visual impairments. Meanwhile, forum member Jakebot has received excellent feedback regarding his 'Smart Watch' sketches on the discussion boards. It makes sense: the watch is a classic style icon (contrary to popular belief), and it's not going anywhere.
But what's exciting too is that Pebble is a smart, sexy application of e-paper that shows the potential for the medium beyond books. It's not hard to imagine Pebble's interface being applied to a tablet, a phone, even a refrigerator or car dashboard. For now, the project is trying to raise $100,000 on Kickstarter... which they raised in just two hours (!). A pledge of $115 gets you a jet black watch, and so far over 13,000 people have put up at least $99 each for a grand total of $1.8m as of press time... with 35 days still to go.
An Xiao Mina is an American designer strategist and researcher who recently worked on the Gwangju Design Biennale's Un-Named Design exhibition. She focuses on the role of social media and communications technologies in building communities and empowering individuals. Find her on Twitter here.