I'm definitely a roots-for-the-underdog type of gal. I'm real alternative like that. So it was pretty cool to see a couple of companies showing us that they're down but not out when it comes to wearable tech this week.
First up, Microsoft announced a wearable tech partnership with Casio pretty much out of the blue. I had high hopes for Microsoft Health when it first launched but I've never really defended the Band or Band 2. They are just terrible products. And yet this patent licensing deal, which follows a similar one with indie luxury smartwatch maker Olio, could mean Microsoft still has skin in the game. That's a good thing as Microsoft's patents on sensors, connectivity and AI could give future Casio smartwatches an edge in a sea of me-too, everyday sports watches.
Next is Pebble which I'm still in mourning for. As our reporter Conor pointed out in his update to the biggest wearable tech crowdfunding campaigns ever, Pebble still holds the 1, 2, 3 in that chart. This week it released its Fitbit-proof update to liberate users from relying on cloud services which will be switched off at the end of 2017. It means users will be able to side-load apps and watch faces onto their Pebbles, something this particular community is pretty au fait with. And hey, I can understand why people are still buying the Pebble 2 - there is no real alternative yet. Trust me, I know, I tried to make a list.
The last comeback kid might surprise you - it's none other than BlackBerry. As I live and breathe. And yes, we're talking wearables and smart home devices. All we know so far is that it's part of what BlackBerry calls the "Enterprise of Things", meaning we're intrigued but not exactly on tenterhooks for shiny, consumer stuff with that working title.
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The other big news of the week is the HTC Vive's first birthday. To celebrate, HTC launched its Viveport Subscription service which I think is a really clever way to get users discovering more apps and uses for VR. When I spoke to HTC's SVP of VR Rickard Steiber he also told me that the Tracker accessory sold out in the US in two days. As US editor Hugh writes this week, "HTC is seeing the value of VR as a service", a view confirmed by Steiber who says Vive is much more than just the headset.
As for what I'm excited about, it looks like Vive X, its accelerator, has some awesome new startups especially in eye tracking and sensory technology to rival the explosion of futuristic VR ideas we're seeing from Samsung C-Lab. This week I also took a look at the most popular VR apps and games so far: it's no surprise to see beloved characters like Batman rack up downloads but it's also amazing that the likes of Job Simulator have taken over $3 million in sales. VR headset owners have got good taste.
It's been a quiet week for device launches - Polar's new M430 watch adds six-LED optical HR and lands in May; Revolar is a new wearable panic button. If I'm honest my favourite connected self product of the week isn't a wearable, it's the Duo smart mirror.
Smart mirrors are just one of those things that has always held a certain fascination for me - blame Tony Stark and Marty McFly for that. Recently, I thought my splurgy flatmate had gone all out and bought one but turns out his mirror just has a small glowing button to control lights on its underside - imagine my disappointment.
This one seems to be the real deal with a Full HD reflective display, its own HomeOS and an AI assistant named Albert. I just hope the New York startup behind it can deliver on what it's promising - it's refreshing to see something that's not an Echo clone in the smart home right now. It's a trend that's bumbling along too with startups like Brilliant also going for the display that blends into your home approach.
I'll leave you with a couple of Apple tidbits because I'm a pro and I know what the people want. An LTE Apple Watch Series 3 could arrive this fall - look out for our team investigation into what we can expect landing early next week. And we reckon Apple's untethering from Imagination Technologies this week is all the more reason to expect an Apple AR device to arrive sooner rather than later. We're calling it, feel free to tell us we're wrong. That's it for now. Goodbye, dear audience.
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