Last week saw an electronic paper-toting wearable, known as the FES Watch, return to Japanese crowdfunding site Makuake. Having already succeeded in a previous funding effort back in September, the renewed project is being pitched as a second chance for those who missed out first time around to get their hands on the product. While the campaign is well on the way towards its funding goal under its own steam, a Sony spokesman has revealed to the Wall Street Journal that the product is actually an undercover effort from the Japanese electronics giant.
Even without the news that Sony is behind it, the FES Watch is an interesting enough device in its own right. There are no smartwatch features on board (so no push notifications, voice search, etc.), with the wearable being pitched as a fashion accessory first and foremost.
The watch not only makes use of electronic paper on its dial, but also on its integrated strap. It ships with 24 designs which you can switch between by pressing the physical button on the side of the device. There’s a motion sensor included, with the face turning on when the user raises it to check the time – a feature we’re used to on Android Wear and Samsung Gear smartwatches.
One of the biggest draws of e-paper displays is their long running times, with the team promising 60-day battery life from the device. While the current version doesn't offer any functionality over an analog watch, it's likely more of a prototype of what might be possible in future watches that could bring smart functionality with them. The fact that the display extends to the strap of the FES could, for example, allow for notifications that don't intrude upon the dial, but are displayed around the wrist (similar to the Kairos TBand).
While it’s worth noting that Sony has yet to publish an official statement regarding its involvement in the project, given the dire outlook of its mobile technology business, it comes as no surprise that the company might be looking for innovative ideas to help it find new success in the electronics industry outside of its popular PlayStation brand.
The company’s interest in e-paper wearables also looks to extend beyond watches, with a number of other accessories that make use of the tech reportedly in the works, most notably bow ties.
An individual involved with the FES Watch project discussed the product with the Wall Street Journal, stating, “We hid Sony’s name because we wanted to test the real value of the product, whether there will be demand for our concept.”
The crowdfunding campaign is currently 80 percent towards its goal. While it’s highly likely that the project would have hit its target without the revelation of Sony’s involvement, it seems likely that the news will give it more than enough momentum to push it over the finish line. Initial units are expected to ship out to Japanese backers some time after May 2015.
Check out the video below for a quick look at the FES Watch in action.