Fads in tech come in waves, and some of those waves seem to overlap. Wearables is just now starting to gather steam this year with the impending release of Samsung’s next batch of Gear smartwatches, with rumors of Google and Apple’s own entrants into the smartwatch set to be unveiled any day now. But the new fad of modularity seems to be just taking off, with the Phonebloks project coming together with Project Ara at Google’s ATAP division. But it looks like a new UK-based startup is attempting to ride both those waves to bring consumers a modular smartwatch.
Blocks proposes a smartwatch made up of 3D printed pieces that interlink to form a customizable band. Those pieces might provide the gadget with an accelerometer, a GPS chip, or a heart rate monitor, to name a few, and can be swapped in or out based on the needs of the user. The display, likewise, might be a low-power E-ink display, like the kind found in Amazon’s original Kindle readers, or an LED or touch-enabled display.
As of now, though, Blocks is little more than an idea with a nice website (not to mention the YouTube video posted above). The site does say that it’s “currently in production,” but other details are slim. Serge Vasylechko, a Blocks co-founder, spoke with TechCrunch about the status of Blocks, and the work that’s ahead of the team to bring the product to market:
“We currently have a functional prototype that proves the concept. More specifically — that the connections are reliable enough to send data from block to block, and that the communication protocol can support the data rate at which the information is being transferred around the device.
The current aim is to look at design issues around Blocks and make it comfortable and appealing to wear for the user. Once that is done we can move on to full prep towards a crowdfunding campaign which we plan to release in the near future. In the longer run, we aim to release the full product itself by mid-2015, with developer editions ready before that.”
Vasylechko also says that the company is trying to make sure that the blocks themselves are sturdy enough to stay connected, not to mention to offer some form of water resistance so as to compete with the second generation of the Galaxy Gear.
If Blocks does make it to market in 2015 as Vasylechko hopes, it could be a really interesting entrant into the wearables market. After all, Pebble seemed to have ignited the whole category with its successful Kickstarter campaign, and adding modularity into the mix would only make things more interesting. That said, Blocks also seems like the kind of thing that would only really start to realize its full potential after the first generation came out and the kinks could be worked out. Either way, this is one project that’s worth paying attention to.