Pebble Smartwatch: The why and why not

There’s a new project on Kickstarter, the wildly popular crowdfunding website. It’s called Pebble and it’s breaking some records. The goal of the project to get started was $100,000 and as of the writing of this post, the project has  $6,193,523 of funding pledged from people.
The watch, made with an e-paper display, the same display that the basic line of Kindle devices uses, is extremely customizable, correctly priced (at $150, it’s the same as the Sony smartwatch and probably does more) and as you can see from the Kickstarter page, has gained the love of 42,000 early bird backers.
Sounds awesome doesn’t it?

Yes, it’s got great features like an amazing choice of apps, analog or digital or typographic watch face, Android remote SMS, email and phone call notifications (iOS doesn’t support those features yet), caller ID, accelerometer based functionality, an ARM processor for near-infinite modding capabilities, bluetooth and even a 7-day battery life (ZOMG!), but all these features are over shadowed by one tiny detail –
The watch and it’s entire ecosystem is based on the concept that you are using it in the day(light)!
Remember how irritating it is when you want to read from your Kindle but the light is just not enough to let you read? Remember how that wonderful afternoon in the sun with your favorite books turned sour as soon as evening hit the valley?
That’s what’s gonna happen with the Pebble smart watch over and over again. You’ll need to find just that spot that works. You’ll have to move to the only light in the room as soon as a phone call comes in, just so that you can read the caller ID before you decide what to do with the call.
What I’ve pointed out doesn’t seem to be of much concern to those funding the watch, in fact, when I tried to explain this issue to someone on twitter, I got it handed to me on a platter! (Apologies @mcowger if you didn’t want to be highlighted!)
I’m not saying don’t buy the watch. In fact, if you’ve got the dough, put it in right now before the project funding stops on May 18th. You’ll even get the watch cheaper than market price ($99 instead of $150) so it really is a good deal, just make sure you switch on the lights in your bedroom before you look at your watch at night!
After-note: The Pebble manufacturers added a back-light to the watch to combat the useless-in-the-night issue, probably as an afterthought, so, I as an afterthought, am going to talk about the Sony smart watch that came out the same time as the Pebble project was launched. Don’t be surprised because it’s called Smartwatch or that it runs Android. Or the fact that despite being technically superior than Pebble (multi-touch color OLED display), it’s going to sell much less.
That’s all folks!

The Three Blind Men

Recently, I was in a shopping mall heading towards McDonald’s for a dinner. As I walked past a showroom, I noticed an odd occurrence. Three Men, holding each other by the arms were walking in a straight line. One look and I had dismissed this sight. But then I paused and looked at them again. Here were the three blind men, white sticks in hand, goggles covering their eyes at 9 in the night, walking steadily in the middle of the mall.

I went over to them and inquired as to where they were headed. They said they wanted to go to the loo and the lead amongst them confirmed from me that it was in  the direction ahead. I corrected him by saying in a matter of fact way that he would have to turn to the right after walking down a bit further. He thanked me and started heading out in the initial direction. Instantly, it occurred to me that in the most insensitive way, I had told them the directions but not the distances. I latched on to the first one and took them to the corner where they had to turn right and pointed them on to start walking in the said direction. Again, they thanked me and started off.  Satisfied that I had done a good job, I walked off but stopped before having gone more than a few steps. I cussed at myself for being that stupid and ran back to them in order to guide them further to the exact door. When I reached, they were fumbling around a fire escape, looking for the correct door. Many onlookers were passing by them, surprised to see them try to find their way in the maze of objects and paths we “sighted” people take for granted. Before I could reach though, another fellow had arrived and helped them get to the restroom. I realized as I looked from a distance that it was the lead who alone had to go to the loo but the other two had no option than to follow him. They stopped at the door and waited for him to return.

As I walked off, a thought came to my mind. As the world around us progresses and technology allows us to become greater than ourselves, the society we live in does not change, the plight of the people does not change and the conditions which affect us do not change. We may be running after cures for cancer and aging but the blind man still cannot see and the deaf can still not hear. There is technology to enable them in doing these too, but that technology is not available to the present at a price which does not hit the pride of the man bearing the cost. Those blind men were not in rags but seemed suitably dressed. A poor blind man would have been stopped at the doors of the mall and forced to look for a loo elsewhere but the guard let them in and guided their path too, in his own insensitive way. That goes to say that the latest gadgets which help the blind(no euphemisms here, say it as it is) are within their reach but not there yet.

As a tech enthusiast and a software programmer, I can say that anything is possible in the world of technology. As a hardware designer and a practical man, I can say that we are not looking at the right ventures. I can blame many for not following up on this, from Steve Jobs to the Indian Government, but till some brilliant yet cheap technology comes into the possession of these disabled people, let’s make sure that the three blind men you see on the road next time reach home safely. Let us make sure that the stark contrast between consumerism of the most blatant kind and the simple reality that life has not yet changed despite Science’s greatest contributions be diminished by Humanism, for that too is as simple as extending your hand and guiding the path of those who cannot see.