Smart ring would put phone updates, controls on your finger

Think a smartwatch is too big and heavy? What about getting phone updates on a smart ring?

Smart ring earns big crowdfunding cash despite skepticism

The Smarty Rings project, based in Chennai india, promises waterproof, stainless steel rings that will connect wirelessly to your smartphone. The Smarty Ring team doesn't yet have a prototype, and says its images are Photoshopped. (Smarty Ring/Indiegogo)

Think a smartwatch is too big and heavy? You may soon have a tinier option — a smart ring.

Today is the last day to back the Smarty Ring, billed as "the first of its kind," a project based in Chennai, India, on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo.

As of 11 a.m. ET, the campaign had raised more than $190,000, well over its $40,000 goal, despite skepticism and questions on the project's message board about whether the creators will actually be able to turn their conceptual design into a real device.

The waterproof, stainless steel band, which will be four millimetres thick and 13 millimetres wide, will feature an LED screen and will connect to your phone via Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology, according to the project's website and its Indiegogo page.

The site claims the average smartphone user checks their phone every six minutes, and promises to make that unnecessary, saving time and the battery life of the smartphone.

The goal of the project was to create a high-tech gadget that would also double as "high-end fashion jewelry," said an email to CBC News from the team's marketing director, Karthik, who did not give his last name.

The Smarty Ring's features are to include:

  • A clock with stop watch, timer and alarm.
  • Notifications of calls, text and email messages, and social networking updates from services such as Facebook, Twitter, and Skype.
  • Phone controls that let users accept or reject incoming calls, make outgoing calls to preset numbers, and control music or the phone's camera.
  • A phone tracking feature that beeps when your phone gets more than nine metres away from you.
  • The ring charges wirelessly and its creators guarantee 24 hours of battery life.
The ring is designed to be four millimetres thick and 13 millimetres wide. Its promised features include a clock with alarm and timer and a tracker that beeps if your phone gets too far away. (Smarty Ring/Indiegogo)

The Smarty Ring team says the retail price for the device will be $275, but backers will get it for $175. They estimate delivery in April 2014.

They are also offering cheaper versions that include only the tracking feature or the clock and tracking features.

The creators provide no information about themselves, other than their location, on their website. However, in response to an email from CBC News, Karthik said the project was founded by Chennai-based mechatronics engineer Ashok Kumar, and the team includes electronic and computer engineers with experience in robotics and nanotechnology.

The team responded openly to some skeptics on the comment section of their Indiegogo campaign, although others accused them of erasing questions.

No working prototype

Smarty Ring's creators acknowledged on their campaign page that the photos used on the site were Photoshopped.

They also admitted that they did not have a working prototype, just a printed circuit board layout that is posted on the site, but said they were "not the only campaign raising funds for conceptual designs."

While the crowdfunding site Kickstarter has rules requiring creators to be clear about the state of a project's development and show a prototype "demonstrating the product's current functionality," Indiegogo has no such rules.

"Even if they had a working prototype, four months would barely be enough time to get the final production happening – and unlikely to be sufficient to get the necessary software development completed," wrote an Indiegogo user named Kean Maizels on the comment board.

He also questioned how strong the ring would be, when it was so thin, yet contained so many electronics on a board that is flexible, something that is still unusual and difficult to make.

"Finally," he added, "I can’t believe it is possible to manufacture at this price."

The Smarty Ring creators said they are able to set a low price because they don't have any marketing or financing costs, as they have already raised the money and publicity through Indiegogo and the media. They added that they plan to subcontract to factories specializing in each part.

The information provided by the Smarty Ring team wasn't enough for everyone.

"A few Photoshopped pictures and a hypothetical PCB [printed circuit board] layout is far from convincing," said one user named Eric Strasser. "Good luck to you and those who have backed you."


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