It looks like geek watches may be making a comeback. WIMM Labs is releasing its Android-powered platform for ultra-mobile, wearable computing, and in doing so joins Fossil's Meta Watch project in this emerging space.
WIMM has financial backing from Foxconn, the company that makes iPhones, but WIMM is a California start-up.
In the demo I saw, the small WIMM module, which will be shipping to developers shortly, could be snapped into a few different prototype watch bands. It has some interesting technological properties. For one thing, it's less bulky than those SPOT watches that Microsoft tried to foist on us. And the platform is somewhat open, based on a custom fork of the Android OS. (Standard Android doesn't support screens this small.)
Inside the module is a standard suite of radios and sensors: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, acceleration, GPS, and magnetometer. There's also a speaker and a buzzer. A health product like the Basis this isn't, but it does have exposed contacts on the back to communicate with accessory devices.
The rest of the hardware is more interesting. There's a version in a ceramic case that looks very sharp; plastic will also be available. The screen is a trick transflective unit. When the backlight is off, it becomes a gray-scale screen that's easily readable in normal light. To get into the UI, you fire up the interface (by holding your finger down on the capacitive screen), and it becomes a full-color, backlit display.
There are two processors in the WIMM. A low-power chip that just keeps the clock up to date, updates the watch's low-power display, and monitors the touch screen and wireless signals (barely); and a more robust Samsung ARM11 chip for the apps and the user interface. The WIMM should be good for about 30 hours of wearing before it needs a recharge. There's a micro-SD slot in its guts, for up to 32GB of storage.
I've never seen version 1.0 hardware this sophisticated from a start-up. Company spokesperson Tim Twerdahl says Foxconn gets the credit. It has 100 engineers involved in this project and is doing the manufacturing, including, he says, gearing up to produce the modules in big run-rates quickly.
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