UK team announces Blocks, a Project Ara-like smartwatch concept

March 7, 2014
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While the now-Google-led Project Ara promises us a future filled with modular smartphones that can easily be upgraded as you go, the idea of modular technology can just as easily be extended to other mobile efforts like the smartwatch. With that in mind, a UK team has recently went public with its “Blocks” concept, which it says they have been working on since their founding in November of 2013.

The idea behind Blocks is simple: you have a smartwatch strap that can contain multiple blocks that can be swapped out and upgraded in order to bring you the ultimate smartwatch experience. The display is also theoretically swappable for e-ink, LED or perhaps even technologies like mirasol.

Like Project Ara, the idea is to eventually allow just about any developer get involved with creating “Blocks” for the watch. Just as Ara, Blocks also has a long road ahead of it before it reaches commercial status. The big difference, however, is that Google has much deeper pockets and the developer connections needed to get Ara off the ground and running. Not to mention that Ara’s module developer kit is on its way in April.

The idea behind Blocks is certainly an intriguing one, though likely it will come down to just how practical it is to develop such a platform, and how much it costs.

So when might we see Blocks move past the theoretical and into the realm of reality? According to the Blocks team, they already have a functional prototype that proves the concept, and are planning to start crowdfunding for the project in not-too-distant future with a commercial product launch aimed for mid-2015.

We currently have a functional prototype that proves the concept. More specifically — that the connections are reliable enough to send data from block to block, and that the communication protocol can support the data rate at which the information is being transferred around the device.
Serge Vasylechko
Member of Blocks team

As for what OS Blocks will run on? Although the team has yet to make its final decision — considering the project is still in the conceptual stages — they have reportedly ran tests using Android.

The idea behind Blocks is certainly an intriguing one, though likely it will come down to just how practical it is to develop such a platform, and how much it costs. Speaking of the latter, Blocks’ Serge Vasylechko says the goal is for a base model (with processor, battery and display) to cost about the same as Pebble, with the actual modular component prices ranging depending on the functionality they provide.

What do you think, could a smartwatch that is upgradable and truly customizable through modular blocks be what’s needed for the smartwatch market to really explode in popularity? Or do you feel that this is nothing more than a pipe dream?

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