The smartwatch market is barely in its infancy, but it's already feeling a bit crowded. With crowdfunding success stories like the Pebble and the Agent rubbing shoulders with juggernauts like Apple, Google, and Microsoft, a new smartwatch has to bring something truly innovative to the table in order to stand out. PH Technical Labs seems prepared to do just that with the HOT Watch, which has a directional speaker and microphone embedded in the wrist, allowing the wearer to answer phone calls just by cupping their hand to their ear.
The developers at PHTL designed the watch primarily around their patent-pending Hands On Talk technology, which is where the HOT Watch gets its name. When synced to a smartphone via Bluetooth, users can take calls privately just by using their palms to reflect and amplify the audio directly into their ears instead of relying on a separate headset. Strange as it seems, the designers claim this method delivers incredibly clear sound for both the caller and the wearer.
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It's not uncommon these days to see someone with a Bluetooth headset seemingly talking to themselves, but watching a person appear to answer a pretend phone might take more time to get used to. Unlike a regular cell phone though, there's a lot less risk that you'll drop it or accidentally forget it somewhere.
Aside from this unusual method for answering phone calls, the watch comes packed with almost as many features as a full smartphone. From the HOT Watch, users will be able to access their contacts for caller ID and text messaging, read their email, and even listen to music through their phone's native player. It will also come equipped with some basic apps for checking the weather, stocks, calendar, news, Facebook, and Twitter, amongst many others. PHTL is also planning to provide an SDK so programmers can create their own third-party apps.
Of course it's still a watch, so wearers will have a choice between different watch faces, along with alarm, timer, and stopwatch functions. You'll still need to take out your regular smartphone however for more advanced functions, like GPS, internet browsing, or the camera. The Bluetooth connection between a phone and the watch usually ranges from 20 to 30 ft (6.1 to 9.1 m). As an added precaution, if they get too far away from each other a proximity alert will sound to let you know if your phone is being left behind or stolen.
A basic HOT Watch measures just 34 x 42 x 8 mm (1.3 x 1.7 x 0.3 in), with a Sharp 1.26-inch E-paper display on the front. The capacitive screen uses multi-touch controls and is made of a smudge-proof, anti-reflective glass that's easy to read even in bright sunlight. Four shortcut buttons are located along the top of the screen, which can be customized to open specific programs. An energy efficient Cortex M3 processor handles most of the watch's basic functions, along with a separate DSP processor just for Bluetooth, call controls, and any audio enhancements. The final design will be water resistant as well, though the developers haven't revealed how much pressure it will be able to withstand.
The watch is also equipped with a vibration motor as well as a six-axis accelerometer and gyroscope, which opens the door for some unique controls and functions. With the optional HOT Gestures activated, the smartwatch will respond to specific hand motions and touch commands. Moving you hand toward your ear while receiving an incoming call will automatically answer it, while shaking your hand will send it to voice mail, for example. You can also draw letters on the screen to unlock it to specific programs, like "C" for the clock or "D" for the dialpad. There's even an optional program that will detect if the wearer has fallen down suddenly and then automatically text a pre-set emergency number, unless it's canceled within 30 seconds.
The developers have built several working prototypes of their new smartwatch in a variety of styles, but they still need to finalize the design and begin manufacturing it. They recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to mass produce the HOT Watch and exceeded their US$150,000 goals within the first 30 hours. Since receiving feedback from backers, they've already decided to remove the large logo from the front in favor of a more subtle symbol, which will be voted on by the community.
Right now, anyone who backs the Kickstarter for $119 or more can receive a smartwatch of their own when they ship (which should beDecember). The watch is available in Basic, Edge, Classic, and Curve styles with either a gold or silver finish. For the most part, the various models only differ in aesthetics, though the Curve is a bit more expensive and includes a built-in 2,200 mcd flashlight. All watches will be compatible with Android and iOS phones at launch, with similar support for Windows phones expected for March of next year.
For now though, check out the video below to see some of the HOT Watch's features in action.