New York Fashion Week is going on right now. Samsung also just showed off their new Gear smartwatch. Coincidence? I think not. I intentionally wrote 8 Fashion-Related Startups Funded By YC earlier this year when wearable electronics were being widely discussed. More collaboration between these two markets, Fashion and Devices, could result in some very inspiring products. Here are four wearable devices funded by Y Combinator.
Pebble Smartwatch uses e-paper display technology, works on both iPhone and Android, and supports its own apps. Earlier today, Emily Chang at Bloomberg TV spoke with Pebble’s Eric Migicovsky about his product’s strategy against Samsung Gear. Pebble competes on price ($149 vs. $299), simplicity (smartwatch-specific tasks vs. complexity), and longer battery life (7 days vs. only 25 hours). Also, Pebble is very developer-friendly. Mr. Migicovsky says Pebble has been “focusing exclusively on the developer experience, figuring out why developers want to build apps for the watch, what are the types of experiences that people are going to build on the watch.” That focus presently means expansion into “notifications and alerts, sports/health/fitness, and remote controls.”
MYO Armband, a product of Thalmic Labs, is a one-size-fits-all armband for gesture control of your computer or smartphone. MYO works by detecting electrical activity generated through arm movement, connects wirelessly to your device using Bluetooth, and supports an API for developers. One good use-case for MYO may be as a medical device for wounded soldiers and other persons lacking limbs that would otherwise be unable to operate a computer. Compare MYO to this XBox controller recently created by a paraplegic agent of the Border Patrol, which has its own website at LP Accessible Technologies. MYO (rhymes with Leo) is available for pre-order for $149.
Amulyte is a one-button emergency-response pendant for senior citizens. The device works anywhere, requires no base station, detects location using GPS, and uses an accelerometer to monitor movement. A web-based service is also part of Amulyte, allowing loved ones to monitor activity, track location in real-time, and check the status of the device itself. Amulyte is available to pre-order for $99.
Meta Spaceglasses are augmented reality glasses with motion detection, effectively Google Glass meets Microsoft Kinect. The technology in Spaceglasses is sophisticated: Twin 960×540 see-through TFT LCD displays w/ HDMI, 720p RGB camera, 320×240 Infra-Red Depth Camera, and 3-axis accelerometer/compass/gyroscope. The Unity 3d SDK platform enables developers to create new apps for Spaceglasses. Meta has already created an App Idea Store, which is a place for developers to share potential app ideas. Meta Spaceglasses plan to ship a “Developer Edition” in December of this year, with a “Streamlined Edition” (pictured at left) scheduled to be available by April 2014. Meta Spaceglasses can be pre-ordered now for $667.
Apple recently hired Paul Deneve, the former CEO of Yves Saint Laurent. Luxury fashion goods makers likes Yves Saint Laurent have unique expertise in both quality and craftsmanship. Those are attributes frequently lacking in technology products. Apple has clearly demonstrated that people are willing to pay a premium for luxury technology products made from more durable materials and specific attention to aesthetic details.
All of the products listed here have serious potential. However, they could always be better with more attention to craftsmanship. Better wearable computers naturally seems to require a greater mix of fashion with devices. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see hardware startups showing off their products on the runway at next year’s New York Fashion Week?