While it may not be as smart as Apple's upcoming Apple Watch or Motorola's Moto 360, Sony's new FES e-paper watch is certainly the first of its kind.
The watch first made an appearance under the brand name "Fashion Entertainments," with Sony trying to see if it could build momentum around a product using nothing but viral marketing techniques.
"We hid Sony's name because we wanted to test the real value of the product, whether there will be demand for our concept," said a spokesperson for the project.
The FES watch raised 3.5 million yen, which is equivalent to around $30,000. Considering the fact that the watch originally had a goal of 2 million yen, that's not bad at all. Those who gave money to the project will get their device after May 2015.
There are a number of advantages to using e-ink over other forms of a display. For example, users will be able to change the patterns and designs of the device quickly, including color options using newer e-ink technology that allows for colors. In fact, the design of both the face and the band of this device can be changed based on the user's preference, from among more than 20 pre-set design options. Users can even give the band a metal or faux leather look.
The watch is very minimalist, which is great for those who are into that kind of design. However, it also doesn't have many features that other smart watches have, such as a GPS or heart-rate monitor, and is not Internet-connected. Supposedly, however, the price will reflect that fact that it does not have these features.
Sony's new watch is not the first to use e-ink technology. The Pebble Watch, which was one of the first popular smart watches, also uses the technology. Like the FES Watch, the Pebble was also crowd-funded.
Sony is not limiting the e-ink concept to just watches. The company has also mentioned that the technology could be used in other wearables, from bowties to frames for glasses, and so on. E-paper is flexible and does not require a lot of power, meaning that devices using the technology can last a long time without needing to be charged. In fact, the charge for a watch using the technology reportedly lasts around 60 days, which is far more than the single day that a charge for the Apple Watch is likely to last.
E-paper is the name for a display technology that resembles real paper and works by reflected light, taking very little power to display a static image, while electronic ink is the optical component of a film used in electronic paper displays. The display is what's used in most e-book readers.
E-ink has low power needs, especially when compared with LCD displays. E-ink is what is called a reflective display, meaning no backlight is used. Instead, existing light is reflected from the surface of the display back to the viewer's eyes. That is different from an LCD unit's emissive display where light from a backlight is projected through the display toward the viewer's eyes. E-ink is also what is called bistable, which means the image on an e-ink screen will stay even when all power sources are removed -- the display consumes power only when something is changing.
Sony has been pushing for innovation of late. Under the direction of CEO Kazuo Hirai, the company has encouraged employees to come up with new product ideas, with the company providing financial and advisory support for these projects.