Will.i.am's new attempt at tech is a voice-activated smartwatch
Published 19/02/2016 | 08:04
Will.i.am, the musician and judge on The Voice, is launching a voice-activated smartwatch in the UK that he believes can take on Apple and Samsung.
After a series of commercially unsuccessful gadgets, this is the celebrity’s latest attempt to create a piece of wearable technology .
The device, called the "dial", can send emails and texts, plays music, and allows users to find information and track their fitness. It also has a 2 megapixel front-facing camera. Powered by 4G, via a sim card, what makes it unusual - and different from the Apple Watch or Samsung Gear watches - is that it is not synced to a phone.
“It is not tethered to a device, it is the device,” the celebrity said.
The singer, whose real name is William Adams, told the Telegraph: “The reason we built the platform this way is that it is for areas you are truly mobile - in the gym, in a car, on a bike, on a hike, areas where the phone really isn’t meant for. The phone isn’t really meant for a bike in New York. It certainly isn’t meant for a gym where, you have a phone in your pocket, wires everywhere, as you are jump roping.”
The dial will go on sale in the UK early in April, with Three as its mobile phone partner. Prices have not been set, but the dial will only be available on a two-year contract. It is likely to cost about £20 to £25 up front, with monthly costs of about £20.
Consumers navigate and control the watch - which has a 1.63” screen - mostly by speaking into it. It uses its own operating system called AneedA, which is voice-activated. There is no search engine on the phone. Instead, users ask the dial for information, which is supplied directly by a number of partners, such as Yelp, which provides the listings and Wolfram Alpha which supplies encyclopedia facts.
The company has not disclosed who will supply the music streaming service.
Adams said he thought most Britons would be happy to speak into their wrists. “People do the darnedest things now. They are already talking in public out loud, hands free. Saying the weirdest thing out loud. And I’ve seen people with their speakerphone on as they speak to other people.”
The dial comes with a set of Bluetooth headsets, if users do not want both half of their conversations made public.
Adams has attempted to launch various gadgets before, notably the foto.shoto camera case for the iPhone, which failed to take off, and the Puls, also a smartwatch. Launched in 2014 in America, the Puls gained poor reviews from the tech press, with many saying it was clunky and unresponsive. Adams insists this was a beta gadget and was only available to a limited number of consumers.
“We learnt a lot: how to make things at a rapid pace, and get feedback,” he said.
The dial has been created by his technology company called i.am+, based in Los Angeles, and partly funded by the windfall he received when Beats, the headphone brand, was sold to Apple for $3 billion. Adams was a founding investor in Beats, though he has never disclosed his exact stake.
He suggests that the dial may be the first of many devices - including clothing - that could incorporate AneedA.
“Aneeda will get smarter and more intelligent because it is an open platform for other developers to develop more skills,” he said.