Watchy and the hardware dilemma for ‘build it yourself’ lovers
Open Source, like life, can be wonderful. “Anyone” can take the Linux kernel, for example, fiddle with its code and adapt it to his needs. If you know someone in your circle who does it, let us know.
Something similar happens with Open Source hardware. The freedom of having designs and component code is fantastic, but it doesn’t seem like the world is ready (or rather, willing) for the triumph of ‘mount it yourself’. We like things already assembled and that they work. At least they do it reasonably well.
Watchy is wonderful but too “raw”
In recent days he has come to the fore Watchy, a “fully customizable and Open Source clock with electronic ink screen”. The device is a kind of tribute to the legendary Pebble —Although your screen not outside really electronic ink – and like him the idea was to launch it on a crowdfunding platform.
The focus of this product is somewhat different. The Pebble was a lovely product that also boasted electronic ink, but it was also a final product that you bought and it worked: It required no effort on the part of the user.
That project raised more than $ 10 million in 2012 and attracted the interest (and money) of nearly 70,000 people. and Kickstarter. Watchy has not done badly at all: has raised almost $ 135,000 en CrowdSupply thanks to the 1,405 users who have trusted in the project.
The fundamental difference is in focus. Wachy – created by SQFMI company) – is a smart watch that exudes freedom and Open Source on all four sides. The watch is not even sold assembled: its main components come in the box, which you have to assemble with a few instructions superimposed on one of the cardboard panels that protect it. Good too they are on the web, Clear.
Of course not only that is peculiar in Watchy: the clock is based on an ESP32-PICO-D4 SoC, which offers WiFi and Bluetooth LE connectivity and can be programmed with platforms such as Arduino or MicroPython.
That chip is joined elements already known in other watches and quantifiers: we have an accelerometer and a touch sensor for gesture detection, touch buttons, a vibration motor and a micro USB port to charge it.
However the highlight is your monochrome panel of e-ink or e-paper, which has a diagonal of 1.54 inches and a resolution of 200 x 200 pixels. This screen guarantees a remarkable autonomy due to its low consumption (about two weeks, its creators claim), but also the ability to be readable in broad daylight thanks to the characteristics of this type of technology.
The screen, the PCB (the board with the electronic components), the 200 mAh battery and a fabric strap arrive separately in the watch case. Assembling everything should take just a few minutes and it’s not particularly complicated judging by the videos showing this process (Although the instructions on the box seem somewhat lean).
All documentation and device specifications are published on the project website, which makes use of an OSHWA license specially oriented to Open Source hardware, while the code that makes everything work is, of course, available in a GitHub repository.
— SQFMI (@sqfmi) February 4, 2021
Everything, we insist, exudes freedom. The first images have already begun to appear of what it is possible to achieve with this customization capacity in one of the traditional elements of smartwatches: the design of the dial, or watchface, and of course we are likely to see here as independent developers – who they have guides to fiddle with this section — they get the most out of this and other device options. On the project website we can see how there are already some especially striking.
— Brain in a Bowl (@BraininaBowl) February 2, 2021
The possibilities are certainly great for a watch that follow that philosophy of other prodigious projects like the Raspberry Pi. As in that case, the cost of Watchy is really low: it can be obtained for 55 dollars, and if we want the aluminum box there will be to protect it and give it a more premium look, we will have to add 40 dollars to the order. We can also make one with a 3D printer. There are several models available that can be used for that purpose.
The problem with Watchy, like that of Open Source in general, is that it is designed for users who are very proactive with technology. That in addition to consuming it they produce things with them, and in a product like this that seems difficult.
We love these projects, but we don’t buy them (a lot)
The problem with the Watchy is that it seems very oriented to that more restless public (or more freak, if you want) that has a somewhat different relationship with technology: one in which spend a lot of time getting more out of those devices and even to improve them and selflessly share those improvements with the community.
Technology that is sold massively tends to go the other way: products that compete with Watchy are a good example. We have really great smartwatches for 100 or 150 euros with color screens, GPS, NFC and that can also be submerged to put them in the pool and swim. Watches that you buy, (load,) you put on and use, without further ado.
They are there to enjoy them, basically. The user does not have to take care of (almost) anything, and that is the general trend with many devices that are launched on the market giving more power and freedom to users, but that also tend to be associated with more dedication to having them working.
Something like this also happens with the Raspberry Pi, which together with the Arduino platform has uncovered a whole generation of makers who do fantastic things that nevertheless They tend to take a backseat because, hey, those things take a lot of time and dedication. Like the smart mirrors that you can assemble yourself but that you can also buy facts (at a high price, yes), the mobiles that liberate us (at least a little), domotizar a home or all those projects for RPi that fascinate but that again require a clear effort on the part of the users.
Fortunately that there are not so many restless users (for whatever) does not matter: these products and ideas continue to appear and have their fans, something that a few years ago seemed almost impossible. Long live the options whether they are to use without more or if they are the kind that make you work hard and learn something along the way if that’s what you like.