Dick Tracy had one. As did Inspector Gadget and James Bond. A watch that doubled as a computer, two-way radio, mapping device or television.
Though such a device has been lost to science fiction comics and spy movies of the era before smartphones, the smart watch might soon become a reality, in the form of a curved glass device made by Apple.
Apple’s much-awaited gadget, iWatch, which would be a wearable version of the iPhone, is at least three years away, one of the suppliers of the tech giant has said.
Apple’s efforts come as companies have introduced various kinds of wearable gadgets, mainly designed to measure physical activity. More sophisticated devices face big technical challenges, but also are attracting investments from large technology companies.
Apple supplier Corning – developer of the glass, which can be made in a roll similar to newsprint – said the technology should be in use on simple products within a year, but not for anything as complicated as a wearable smartphone.
Companies have yet to come up with products that can take full advantage of Willow glass, which can be made in a roll similar to newsprint, James Clappin, president of Corning Glass Technologies, said in an interview in Beijing yesterday.
The product will let companies make curved or flexible displays.
“People are not accustomed to glass you roll up,” Clappin said after an event marking the opening an $800 million factory for liquid-crystal-display glass.
“The ability of people to take it and use it to make a product is limited.”
The Willow glass should be used in some simple products this year, Clappin said. Examples may include a flexible barrier for solar panels or as a thin film behind some touch panels, he said.
Corning sent out samples of the flexible glass to makers of phones, tablets and TVs in June. Chief Financial Officer James Flaws said at the time the company hoped it would be available in consumer products this year, reports Bloomberg.
This would seem to go against leaks which previously suggested the iWatch was an advanced stage of development and not far off heading into production.
Last month, unnamed insiders were cited as saying that a team of 100 Apple staff – headed by senior executives – had been assembled to work on the product, implying that the iWatch was “beyond the experimentation phase”.
Apple’s senior director of engineering, James Foster, and another manager are part of the iWatch team.
However, recent rumor about Apple wearable gadgets suggest that the company’s product could be with us sooner than expected.
A late 2013 Apple iWatch release date have previously been tipped.
Tipped to play host to a 1.5-inch touchscreen display, further Apple iWatch rumours have claimed the futuristic gadget will offer instant access to messaging and alert details, as well as syncing wirelessly, via Bluetooth, to user’s iPhone handsets.
As well as allowing users to make and receive calls remotely, it is believed the device will play host to the company’s voice activated personal assistant, Siri.
According to several reports, an Apple watch could be used to make mobile payments, for navigation, to access messages from the wearer’s phone or to monitor health and activity, the newspaper speculated.
It would run iOS, the same mobile operating system as the iPhone and iPad.
Google has meanwhile already confirmed it plans to get into the wearable computing market. Google Glass, its augmented reality spectacles, are already in public testing.