Once upon a time, you carried your watch in your pocket. Then it migrated to your wrist. Now the same thing may be about to happen to the smartphone. In April, Vancouver native Eric Migicovsky used the crowd-funding site Kickstarter to request start-up money for the Pebble, a wristwatch that will connect to an iPhone or Android and display emails, messages, and apps. The Pebble instantly became a fundraising phenomenon, racking up more than $7 million in contributions, a Kickstarter record.
When it’s ready to ship, the Pebble won’t be the first smartwatch. It won’t even be Migicovsky’s first, since his California-based company, Allerta, already marketed the Inpulse, a watch that told you when your BlackBerry had a message. But according to Wired magazine, smartwatches “haven’t really caught on with mainstream buyers,” so no major investors wanted to put money in the Pebble. Migicovsky, who studied at the University of Waterloo before moving to the States, told the blog Reyhani Law that he went to Kickstarter only because he “tried the traditional route and it didn’t work.” The Kickstarter bonanza was the first sign that the smartwatch is going mainstream.
What can a smartwatch do for you that a regular phone can’t? Well, for one thing, it spares you the need to reach into your pocket. Migicovsky said he came up with the idea for the Pebble “when I was cycling and I wanted to not drop my phone while riding.” The apps being developed for the watch are aimed at people who can’t hold a phone in their hands: there’s a GPS app for bike riders and a system for golfers to find their way around the course.
There’s one thing the Pebble has going against it, namely that it requires users to move their wrists in order to look at it. Other companies are quietly working on alternatives. Google announced recently that it was working on “augmented reality glasses,” which will provide smartphone-based information to the wearer. The important thing is that no one should ever have to move any body part in order to find out anything.