It was almost a year ago – to the day – that we discussed the Blocks modular smartwatch. If you haven’t read our previous piece on the device, you might want to do that now before you continue.
Because it’s been so long it seems a bit surreal, but the Blocks project is finally up for pre-order. Although, it’s being crowdfunded through Kickstarter, which means you’ll need to pledge your support to the project and wait until it’s ready before you can get your hands on it.
At the time, the team promised that a crowdfunding campaign would be available soon after they had time to come up with a design concept and final prototype.
While the fact that it’s being funded through Kickstarter is certainly disconcerting, especially with the likes of other smartwatches that haven’t quite made it into the realm of success (we’re looking at you Kreyos) there are plenty of success stories too. Consider devices like the original Pebble – which sparked a wide selection of smartwatches from the company – Omate TrueSmart, Agent, and Neptune Pine.
Then again, no one would be angry at you if you decided to save your money until after the Blocks smartwatch was an actual product you can purchase in stores.
Below, we’re going to explain the crowdfunding process, the Blocks smartwatch and what it is, and how you can support the project if you wish.
What Is Kickstarter and Crowdfunding?
If you’re not familiar with crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, here’s how it works: The product campaign must meet a certain funding goal which the company behind it has set for themselves.
Let’s say, for example, that number is $20,000. If at the end of the designated campaign time — usually 30 days — that $20,000 goal has been surpassed, the project will continue through development. This means that everyone who pledged or paid money to fund the project will be charged. If the campaign doesn’t surpass that goal, then nothing happens and the company must seek funding elsewhere.
After the money changes hands, the company must put it towards producing the product as they have promised in the campaign. In this case, the company will use the money to mass produce the Blocks smartwatch so that everyone can own one. Eventually, the profits from those devices will be used to make more and the company — hopefully — will continue to be a success.
If you’re already familiar with the Blocks modular smartwatch you can skip this next section and head right to the Kickstarter campaign launch info.
What Is the Blocks Modular Smartwatch?
Modular design is interesting, exciting and innovative. The concept is simple: consumers may purchase separate modules to assemble their own device. Take a look at Project Ara. It’s exactly the kind of modular device we’re talking about.
With a modular smartphone like Ara, the benefits don’t just stop after you build your phone, however. You can also replace outdated modules for new ones. For example, you could swap out a module with an old processor for a newer and more powerful one.
Now imagine if you could do all this with a smartwatch? What if you could choose whether or not the display on your watch was round, or square, or rectangular? Or, what if you could install a camera in your watch just by connecting a separate module? Perhaps, you would rather skip the fitness tracking features like the heart-rate sensor? With Blocks, you can do just that.
Blocks is a modular smartwatch that borrows the same basic concept from Project Ara. With proprietary hardware modules, you can piece together a device yourself – choosing the various components and features to fit exactly what you want.
You buy the core module and then you can expand it gradually – or all at once – with “blocks” that include more features. What kind of functionality and modules can you buy? Here’s a list of some ideas that the team discussed previously:
- Rectangular screen
- Circular screen
- E-ink screen
- Motion – includes accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer
- Gesture control – includes EMG and MMG sensors
- Location – GPS
- Heart rate – includes infrared heart rate sensor
- Blood Oxygen – includes infrared O2 sensor
- Environment – includes temperature, altitude and pressure sensors
- Fingerprint scanner
- Audio jack – 3.5mm
- Camera – 3, 5 or 8-megapixel sensor
- Extra battery
- Storage – USB or SD card slots
- Contactless – includes NFC and RFID modules
- LED Flashlight
- Programmable button – adds a physical button to the device
- SIM card – includes support for standard, micro or nano SIM
- Kinetic charger port
Over time, more modules will be available and since the Blocks developers have made the platform open source, third party manufacturers may offer new modules after the device is on the market. That means, even if the official developers can’t offer a certain feature or module, someone else might be able to.
When Can I Support the Blocks Modular Smartwatch On Kickstarter?
The Kickstarter campaign is set to launch on October 13 at 9 AM PST or 12 PM EST. That’s when you can pledge your money to the project and pre-order a version of the watch. If you’re wondering what the design will look like or how it’s evolved in the past year, check out the teaser embed below.
Obviously, once the campaign launches we’ll be offered information on what kind of links/modules will be available for the Blocks watch, what the common specs are and how many different models there will be — if there are multiple.
Why Is the Blocks Modular Smartwatch So Exciting?
The team published an update on Medium that discusses the benefits of a modular smartwatch, which are unsurprisingly vast. These are just a couple reasons why they claim modular technology is so promising:
As tech enthusiasts, we have a responsibility to make sure that the industry we love is heading in the right direction.
Modular technology isn’t just a fancy name or a quirky concept that we thought up to make headlines. It is a new way of thinking. It changes our relationship with technology.
It is more sustainable, better for the environment and the consumer: modular means less upgrades and more choice.
Perhaps, the most interesting aspect is that it will be fully customizable in the sense that you can install whatever module and features you wish.
Until now, smartwatches have largely been a crapshoot, with some including popular features and others leaving them out. Tracking down a smartwatch that can do absolutely everything you might want it to is a bit more difficult than you’d expect. Seriously, give it a try. After you do so, you’ll find the idea of a modular smartwatch refreshing for sure.
Does that mean it’s guaranteed to be a success? Definitely not. The Blocks smartwatch could end up being overpriced, the modules could be priced way too high with new features few and far between, and third party developer support could fall by the wayside. There are lots of things that could go wrong.
We’ll just have to wait and see, at least until Oct 13 to see what the team has planned.
What do you think? Are you excited to see what the Blocks team has up their sleeves? Or do you think this is just going to be another mediocre smartwatch?