Smarter Wearables

Thu, 05/21/2015 - 01:00

A vision of the future of the Smart Watch

Smart On The Inside

When people think of wearables they think of smart watches like apple watch or Moto 360. Yes, these are true smart watches with their own operating systems and touch screens. These are smart and fashionable. However, how smart are they in regards to upgradability, material usage, fashion accessorizing, or interface design?

We know from developing wearables here at LSR that most of the effort ends up being hardware and software development. At most other companies, the exterior is often designed first by designers at independent firms. In most cases the designers never meet the hardware team. What they end up with is a design that is difficult to fit the electronics into or a design that has to be compromised later when the limitations of the PCB footprint and battery size are realized. Having one foot in the strategy pool when designing for more PCB or battery capacity could shave months off development time and headaches redesigning. If the designers embraced design for reparability or upgradability, tech products could have a useful life longer than 2 years.

Smart On The Outside

Imagine a smart watch that was less disposable, one that the case could be easily opened to accommodate a new brain, power supply, or even a new wireless charging coil. Imagine less glue and more gaskets. How would this change people’s perception of the end of life risk? I have spoken to many wearable doubters. Some just cannot fathom plunking down $350 bucks for something that may be a useless brick in a couple years. Other watch lovers just want to express themselves and can’t see themselves owning multiple smart watches that they have to manage and keep charged up and ready, yet they have drawers full of traditional, low maintenance time pieces.

Rich created this watch frame structure using Fusion 360 by Autodesk. Their amazing T-Spline technology allows us to quickly model very complex and organic shapes in a parametric 3D modeling environment.

Now imagine this solution. The case would be a simple shape that protects the technology. It would have no buttons and would be water tight. This shape would allow a huge variety of expressive accessories to change the look of the watch. Most wearables today merely allow you to change the strap color or strap material. These new accessories could embrace new 3D metal printing or casting processes that would allow for freedom of shapes, production location and distribution. The makers of the world can do what they want with the basic building blocks. Add on systems could make the design a platform for prototypes, especially for the medical wearable.

Information at a Glance

In order to go mainstream, watch faces themselves will have to add value to the user’s real life. It is amazing how little integration of smart features make it to the watch face on most designs today. The glance viewing is limited to time and popups. You still have to dig for that calendar or pull out the phone. End customers and designers need to stop thinking about the watch as a really small smart phone. Calendar appointments could easily and elegantly added to a watch so that a user could see what’s coming up in the next 15 minutes or hours. I have created this concept with such a feature. In this design, an animated sun gives a visual reference of the day, and a time wheel at the bottom shows upcoming events. This is persistent, and no taping or scrolling by the user is required.

The Future of the Smart Watch

The smart watch of the future may not look much like the watch of today. Of course some will have a traditional aesthetic or construction but they should be constructed on a platform. This will reduce the cost of development and increase the options for design and utility. Designs will be more easily disassembled and upgraded to provide longer product life. And finally, more design thinking and strategy will need to be embraced up front with integrated design teams so that the predicted wearable boom will actually happen.