We knew wearable technology was going to get weird eventually, but we didn't expect it to get this weird, this fast. The HeadWatch is smartwatch design with a twist – a touchscreen body that pops off and doubles as a headset. Wearers get the usual smartwatch notifications, but they can also stick the watch in their ears to take calls.
One of the criticisms of many smartwatches is that they really don't do anything unique on their own. They simply pull information from your phone to your wrist, a small convenience, but nothing technologically groundbreaking. Is it worth spending hundreds on a geeky watch just so you don't have to reach into your pocket?
Some manufacturers have gotten around this shortcoming by building smartphone-mimicking smartwatches, the Neptune Pine being a notable example. These watches use a SIM card to provide many of the same functions as a full-blown smartphone. However, they're rather huge as a result of all the extra hardware, and as cool as the phone-watch always looked on Dick Tracy, screaming at your wrist is less cool in real life.
The HeadWatch, a design from Portugal, strikes a balance between those two approaches, keeping its hardware set light by relying on the smartphone as the "brain" but adding the ability to take calls directly. You simply pull the body out of the wristband dock, place it on your ear with the pull-out earpiece on its back, and use it like a regular Bluetooth headset. You configure (or shut off) the touchscreen in headset mode, so you're not inadvertently revealing all your secrets to the world while wearing it.
While the HeadWatch feels more like a smartwatch with headset capabilities, its designers actually came at it from the other direction. They sought to improve upon the user experience of a headset and came to the conclusion that the smartwatch form can prevent it from getting lost, giving it a dedicated holder.
The HeadWatch is powered by a rechargeable battery with an estimated two-day life and will work with Android, iPhones and Windows devices according to its designers. It includes a temperature sensor and accelerometer and is waterproof to 1.m (3.3 ft). Bluetooth pairing is made easier by a QR image-based pairing application.
As goofy as the HeadWatch looks when worn as a headset, the approach makes some sense. You now have a smartwatch that not only provides notifications from your phone but also does something unique that your phone can't do. Looked at another way, it rolls two pieces of gear into one, saving money and space.
Still, it's hard not to land back on just how silly the caller looks dangling a big, square touchscreen off the ear. A lot of slim fitness bands have hardware bodies that could look more natural as headsets. Give it a slimmer, more headset-like form factor with a basic LCD screen for notifications and time display, price it right and you might have something.
Then again, the traditional headset doesn't look all that stylish to begin with, but people haven't been shamed into retiring it to the tech landfill. Maybe the idea of slapping a touchscreen to the side off your face won't be a deal breaker.
HeadWatch designers have 48 more days to convince US$300,000 worth of Indiegogo funders that their form factor is just right the way it is. The anticipated MSRP is listed at $249, but early adopters can secure one for discounted preorder pricing. If all goes well, they plan to finish development this year and get the watches shipping by March 2015.