Fashion and Technology: Sony Develops Innovative E-Paper Watch

by Matt Klassen on December 4, 2014

In a smartwatch market that is quickly filling up with early adopters, copycats, and, well, Apple products, Sony is reportedly looking to differentiate itself from the clutter by developing an innovative (albeit only moderately advanced) e-paper watch, part of an experiment to deploy the material (the same sort of technology deployed in e-readers like the Amazon Kindle) in the fashion industry.

While currently unable to match the same features of its competing smartwatches, Sony’s e-paper offering, dubbed the Fes Watch, does offer its own unmatched brand of minimalist sophistication, a retro monochrome design with an unmatched 60 days of continuous battery life.

The interesting thing in all this is that Sony was reluctant to attach its name directly to the concept, deliberately using a spin-off front called Fashion Entertainments to create the device. The intent was, understandably, to keep the project low-key until Sony could gauge consumer interest. While it’s difficult to truly estimate the market’s reaction to such a product, I must admit that it’s the first smartwatch to date that I’ve considered worthy of a second glance.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, Sony established the spin-off company Fashion Entertainments as a way of covertly developing certain e-paper projects, using the front company to gain a clear picture of consumer interest in such technological applications in the growing wearables fashion market.

“We hid Sony’s name because we wanted to test the real value of the product, whether there will be demand for our concept,” a person involved in the project said.

In an attempt to plum the depths of potential interest, Fashion Entertainments crowd-funded the project several months ago, raising approximately $30,000. Whether this was enough evidence for Sony to go public with its involvement, or whether the WSJ simply let the cat out of the bag, it seems Sony simply couldn’t hide its involvement in this project anymore.

As mentioned, these e-paper fashion applications deploy the similar technology to that found on e-readers like the Amazon Kindle, used here to create a watch that “changes its appearance depending on the user’s gesture.” Further, the watch reportedly comes in 24 different design patterns the user can select manually.

While granted it doesn’t sport a heart rate monitor, it doesn’t connect to one’s smartphone, or offer most of the other features current smartwatches offer, this project stands out because it is attempting to do something seemingly in short supply these days: innovate. Not limited to watches, the overall scope of this e-paper project is to develop the technology into a fabric, something that could be incorporated into a variety of clothes and accessories in the future.

In the end, it’s this kind of forward thinking that will push the realm of wearable technology forward, not some clunky smartphone-on-our-wrist watch that happens to sport the Apple moniker. I, for one, hope that Sony continues to encourage this sort of concept development, for even if the Fes e-paper watch doesn’t hit store shelves, it gives everyone license to dream, and that’s how progress is truly made.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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