Sony’s e-ink-powered FES Watch (Fashion Entertainments Watch) has been hiding in plain sight for months on Japanese crowdfunding site Makuake, where the device blew past its original funding goal of around $8,500 and eventually managed to raise a little more than $20,000.
In a departure from Sony’s normally conservative product launch approach, the company cleverly put the project into play under the name of Fashion Entertainments on the crowdfunding site in September to, presumably, test the market’s interest. So far, it looks like Sony’s gamble is paying off.
The involvement of Sony in what first appeared to many as a start-up venture was revealed in a report in The Wall Street Journal on Friday.
We hid Sony’s name because we wanted to test the real value of the product
We hid Sony’s name because we wanted to test the real value of the product, whether there will be demand for our concept,” one of the project’s coordinators told the paper.
The main feature of the thin device, which is shaped like a traditional wristwatch, appears to be its use of e-ink to change design of the watch interface and wrist band. According to the project’s campaign page, the device’s battery will last up to 60 days.
In a demonstration video, the device cycles through several of its 24 design patterns, changing the watch from light-colored to dark, with one design even giving the watchband an alligator skin pattern. However, based on the details currently available, the e-ink design changes appear to be the extent of the “smart” part of the device’s functions.
And while e-ink devices are nothing new — leading the pack are Amazon’s Kindle ebook readers and, more recently, the Pebble smartwatch — the powerful backing of Sony’s vast electronics ecosystem could help the device gain traction with the public.
Offered for about $167 on the crowdfunding site, the FES Watch is scheduled to ship to early backers in May 2015. Sony has not released an official statement regarding the device or whether it will be made widely available as a commercial product.