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Fashion First! "Eyecatcher" Smart Bangle Touts a 5" Flexible, Persistent Display

by Cliff Raskind | Oct 20, 2015

LookSee Labs out of Oakland CA has garnered a lot of wearables buzz with its Eyecatcher smart bangle, and will likely obliterate its Kickstarter stretch goal in fairly short order. It is essentially a large 5 inch 16:1 aspect ratio flexible, persistent black and white display to be worn on the wrist. The Kickstarter campaign bills the device as "A smart bracelet that fuses art, fashion and technology by displaying custom images, slideshows, app-notifications and breaking news".  I see it as easily one of the most interesting implementations of electrophoretic e-ink display technology to date. 

The device works with IoS and soon Android smartphones and tablets. Notifications include, activity/motion tracking, barcodes, custom watch faces, calendar, moving map, text messages, breaking news and stocks (with more to come). The true appeal, however, is as an object d'art and women's tastes will be immediately drawn to Eyecatcher.

At the center of the concept is a 5 inch 16:1 aspect ratio monochromatic 150 ppi e-ink screen capable of 16 shades of grey. With a 10 mAh lithium battery Eyecatcher claims a year of battery life if the display is updated once an hour on average. Owing to e-ink, once the image is loaded it isn't going anywhere until the next screen update, and the electronics can snooze into a power saving mode. Connectivity options include Bluetooh LE and micro-usb, with 8 MB of onboard storage for images/slideshows. 

There are 3 design options and 2 sizes to choose from. Among them is stainless steel, white bronze and solid sterling silver options. The device has been in the works since early 2014, and if all goes to plan manufacturing at volume will start in December and online sales will commence in March 2016. Early bird pricing on Kickstarter starts at US$ 214 


Looksee Eyecatcher

From a device I/O standpoint, Eyecatcher is largely about one-way output to the user for notification, ongoing glanceable info, QR code potential, and of course aesthetic designs to compliment your "look". In fact, a novel use featured in LookSee's promotion is displaying a photo of the wearer's bold clothing pattern prominently on the device while the model is also wearing said clothing. Given the monochrome screen, it is unsurprising that these promotional shots are in black and white! 

For notification and alerts, the ability to fine tune via the phone app what comes onto the watch, must be both flexible and user friendly for this kind of device. Additionally, while the e-ink display is key to Eyecatcher's claimed battery life, electrophoresis is also subject to inherent, and non-trivial, refresh rate limitations.

In terms of inputs, Eyecatcher has virtually no onboard controls and the only input taken from the device appears to be motion sensing for activity tracking. Indeed, the bangle design makes persistent skin contact problematic for bio-sensors. The impact of something like an optical heart rate sensor would, for example, kill battery life-- but that is of course NOT the point of such a device. 

The technology to enable this kind of design has, in theory, been ready for some time, but the proof will be in the putting when Eyecatcher is commercialized. In my view the blank canvas approach definitely takes top marks for versatility despite being largely devoid of user inputs, and in some ways defies categorization. 

There are a number of smart jewelry starups out there. Parallels can be drawn between Eyecatcher and Polyera's touch enabled WOVE band, and WiseWear focuses on the beauty and form of their metal designs that emphasize haptics and minimise visual display. Eyecatcher, however, is a design that is all at once elegant and incredibly versatile.  

On a related note, I would also urge makers of traditional watches to take a hard look at developing e-ink alternatives for use in smart watchstraps that will preserve the enduring appeal of their products.

While I previously wrote that that beyond wristwear the wearables segment is positively brimming with innovation, recent news has shown the wrist remains fertile ground for innovation!
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