The FES Watch, an e-paper timepiece developed by a Sony subsidiary, first broke cover a year ago on Japanese crowdfunding site Makuake. Since then it’s expanded to Sony’s own crowdfunding portal First Flight, and this month it’ll finally see a release — albeit a limited one — in Japanese stores.
The MoMA Design Store on Omotesando will carry the FES Watch from this Saturday, while Isetan in Shinjuku — the boutique department store that Apple used for the Apple Watch launch — will sell it from December 1st. In choosing these two locations, Fashion Entertainments, the Sony subsidiary producing the FES Watch, is clearly taking a design- and style-first approach to the release of its first product; Tokyo’s countless electronics stores are being left out for now.
The FES watch — which really is just a watch, not a smartwatch — will be sold through the Japanese MoMA online store, too, and it’s also still available through First Flight with shipping set for Saturday. Sony isn’t revealing anything about a wider release except to say that it plans to bring the FES Watch to other stores in time. The watch sells for a tax-inclusive price of ¥29,700, or about $242.
Each Saturday, Farhad Manjoo and Mike Isaac, technology reporters at The New York Times, review the week’s news, offering analysis and maybe a joke or two about the most important developments in the industry.
Farhad: Hey, Mike, we swapped places! You were visiting San Francisco this week, and I’m visiting New York. I miss the Bay Area. I swear I haven’t heard a single person talking about valuations all week. What a weird town this is.
Mike: I shoveled $4 toast down my throat and am pretty sure I’m now a unicorn.
Farhad: That sounds amazing. So, it was kind of a slow week in tech. Apple released iOS 9, its new mobile operating system, which — because it lets users block web ads — sent media people into a frenzy. Apple also delayed releasing new software for its watch, citing an unspecified bug.
Mike: That sounds awful. I require at least a baker’s dozen.
Farhad: In nondevice news, the ride-hailing company Lyft made a dealwith the Chinese ride company Didi Kuaidi. (That’s so fun to say!) Should Uber be worried about this?
Mike: Yes, but not for the reasons you think. This is a whole article’s worth of discussion, so I’ll save that for a later day. Let’s get on to what you really want to talk about.
Farhad: Cool, let’s talk about Ahmed Mohamed, the 14-year-old boy in Texas who was detained for bringing what authorities called a “hoax bomb” to school, which — as Ahmed repeatedly tried to explain to his teachers and the cops — was actually a pretty cool homemade electronic clock.
To me, this story highlights the power of social media to turn what would have been an otherwise unknown local issue into a moment of contemplation for the whole country. Because a few Twitter-savvy bloggerspicked up the story and shared it widely, Ahmed quickly became international news and was applauded by Hillary Clinton, Mark Zuckerberg and President Obama.
We get down on Facebook, Twitter and other social media stuff because they so often distract and offend us, but I think we should be heartened, too, by their awesome power to impose a kind of righteous social justice. Right?
Mike: I will admit, I participated in the “slacktivism” of the Ahmed uprising with a handful of tweets. And, on the whole, I think that Twitter, Facebook and whatever other social avenues that helped raise this to the surface were acting as a net positive force in the world.
I mean, after experiencing xenophobia disguised as vigilance, this teenager is having the best week of his life. I’ll be shocked if Ahmed doesn’t have a record deal by the end of the month.
So yes, this was a good thing. This boy was wronged, and the support of millions of strangers helped rectify that injustice.
But I have to be Debbie Downer for a second. The problem with social media and the power of crowds is one of context: Often, we’ll see a quote or a tweet floating around the Twittersphere and divorce that quote from its original circumstances.
Justine Sacco, who made a joke in very poor taste on Twitter and has spent the last few years paying for it, is perhaps the best example. Even heroriginal detractors came to understand that irony and sarcasm divorced from context and condensed into a widely circulated tweet can become one’s downfall.
To be clear: What happened to Ahmed was wrong, regardless of context. But my greater point is that online mobs are insatiable in their rush to deliver justice, and more often than not, that justice can itself be unjust.
Farhad: Eh, sure, social media mobs sometimes go a little nuts. That’s life! It’s impossible to determine how often online mobs ruin people’s lives versus how often they draw attention to more legitimate causes like this one. But, by my totally unscientific examination, it feels as if we’re seeing social media’s power being used for good more often. Think about all the instances of supposed police abuse that have gained widespread attention in the last year — I suspect that many of these stories wouldn’t have been heard without these networks.
There’s another thing I wanted to touch on with Ahmed. One reason this story took off, I think, is that the nerds who first shared it identified with Ahmed. They, too, were tinkerers as children; making novel, weird stuff has long been the first step to a career in tech. Perhaps one of the bright sides to this story is that it might ignite some young people’s interest in making stuff. I hope a lot of high school students go out and make Ahmed’s clock — as an article in Popular Mechanics put it, we need more Ahmed Mohameds.
Mike: A resurgence of the “maker” middle class, all because of a tinkering adolescent! All I did was make a lame potato battery in middle school. I’m sorry your son is such a disappointment, Mom and Dad.
On that note: Till next week, then?
Farhad: Yep. I’m going to go teach my children how to build a clock.
The latest wearable tech device can calm you down or energise you with the stroke of a finger
Bad moods can come out of nowhere and last for hours, ruining perfectly pleasant afternoons with their lingering pessimism. But the latest form of wearable tech claims to have an antidote, with a watch that can apparently transform your mood.
The watch, Doppel, uses electric pulses to clam you down or boost your energy, vibrating against your wrist with a gentle electronic beat. One stroke of the dial creates a slow, calming beat, while a quick squeeze of the watch creates a faster, energising pulse. The pulsations are designed to have a similar effect to music, and are imperceptible to anyone other than the watch-wearer.
“Fast musicpumps you up, slow music chills you out – it’s something that happens to you without you even realising it,” says Nell Bennett, who designed Doppel. “But playing music isn’t always possible. If you’re in a meeting and you’re feelingstressed and panicky or angry, you can’t say, ‘Don’t mind me while I just listen to some calming music’. This is a way to subtly and easily calm yourself down or pump yourself up on the go.”
“We wanted to create something very intuitive, which reflects habits humans already have, like stroking your temples”
Doppel was designed by four students – a mechanical engineer, a material scientist, a quantum physicist an a designer – at a double masters program at Imperial College and the Royal College of Art. The group ran tests on more than 40 people to determine the effects of their watch.
“We could see a direct change in terms of people calming down. We found people’s focus doubled and their reactions times also improved, which is rare,” says Bennett. “It’s an effect that seems to happen with anyone, whether they like the product or not. Even those who said they found it distracting didn’t actually show a decrease in concentration. We like to think of it as technological doping or performance enhancing technology.”
“If you’re in a meeting and you’re feeling yourself getting stressed and panicky or angry, you can’t say: ‘don’t mind me while I just listen to some calming music'”
The device is currently a prototype, but has the backing of 820 Kickstarter donors who have pledged £111,194 to turn Doppel into a widely-available product. The device could be useful for sportsmen – “I use it for running a lot, because it can energise you at the start of a run and help you keep pace with a beat,” says Bennett – but once Doppel is a reality, he expects the device will be used bybusy professionals.
“We don’t envisage it as being used in sport – that market is so saturated. We see it as being used by professionals with a stressful working lifestyle,” says Bennett. “There’s nothing invasive about it at all. It’s not like caffeine which isn’t necessarily very good for you. It’s not dangerous in any way. It’s as dangerous as listening to music – i.e. not very.”
The team have already met their target of £100,000 on Kickstarter
At £200 for a limited edition Doppel, the product isn’t cheap. When there are thousands of apps out there all claiming to alter your mood for just a couple of pounds, it could be difficult to justify forking out £200 for the privilege of having a small heartbeat pulse gently against your wrist.
But if you’re stressed out and overworked, then perhaps £200 is a small price for a moment of true calm.