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Adventures In Tech
Android Wear's amazing smartwatch ancestorsThink smartwatches are a new idea? Think again! Here are our favourite past attempts at smartwatch success.
Android Wear is almost upon us, promising to thrust the smartwatch into the limelight. But the concept isn't as new as you think. Join us as we take a look at Android Wear's amazing smartwatch ancestors. [MUSIC] Companion computers that live on your hand have been a long running sci-fi dream. From cartoons and TV shows to the Usborne Book of the Future, which predicted we'd all one day be wearing wristos. Which, incidentally, is a [UNKNOWN] smart watch. Watch. It's not just pop culture, though. Smart watches have existed in real life tech for decades. From Seiko's early high tech time pieces to the Linux powered IBM watch pad or Fossil's wrist PDA. The history books are littered with attempts at making the sci-fi dream a reality. Despite repeated attempts, smart watches have never really taken off which is a shame because some of them are really quite clever. Without further ado, here are our three favorite attempts at smart watch success. We begin in the mid-nineties, an era that saw Microsoft partner with watchmaker Timex to create the data link series of smart watches. Bill Gates and Charles Cook had a novel interface for uploading information to the data link, whereby data was beamed by flashing lights on a crt monitor, picked up by a sensor on the face of the watch. Using this method, the data link can store phone numbers, to do lists, or anniversary reminders. I do worry though what other information Microsoft could've stored in that flashing code. It looks like you're writing a letter. The data link was well received and made it to space, but was eventually overshadowed by another kind of device that was also pretty good at storing numbers. Microsoft wouldn't let the smartwatch dream die however and in 2003, would unveil the most ambitious smartwatch project ever attempted. Smart personal object technology or SPOT, was Microsoft's plan to take over all manner of household objects that began with a series of time pieces. The first sport watches were built by partners Fossil and Suunto and received data from MSN Direct, an FM radio service that initially cost 60 dollars a year to access. Using MSN Direct, the SPOT watches could receive data wirelessly, but only if you were in a region that had access to its FM signals. It was also limited in what you could do. You could see news headlines, but not full stories, and you could get messages from MSN messenger, but you couldn't reply. More smart watches were built but to no avail and in 2008, Microsoft confirmed that smart watch was dead. Just one year later, however, we were confronted with another attempt, and this one packs all modern conveniences. [MUSIC] As well as 1.3 inch color capacited touch screen, LG watch phone can make voice calls and removing the need to even carry a phone. It has 3G capabilities and even packs a front facing camera to do video chats. Something not even modern gadgets like Samsung's Galaxy Gear can manage. Sadly though, the watch phone was flawed. It costs as much as a smartphone, but could perform a fraction of the tasks and required you to wear a Bluetooth headset. Unless you are happy to shout at your wrist in public. [MUSIC] Go home and if Tokyo doesn't like it. Sorry, Dave, I'm just in the lift. I might lose you. Dave, Dave, Dave, Dave. [MUSIC] The watch phone was yet another in a long string of smart watches that had us briefly excited but quickly sank into obscurity failing to win over the wider world. Today Android wear has captured our attention but now faces the same problem as its often forgotten forefathers. Convincing the public that a computer on their wrist is more than just a science fiction dream. Will Android Wear succeed, or will its name be added to the list of failed Smartwatch experiments? Let me know, and check back next time for another adventure in tech.