MOTA's vibrating jewelry promises more subtle notifications

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Daniel Cooper
September 6, 2014 8:27 AM
In this article: hands-on, IFA2014, Indiegogo, MOTA, SmartRing
MOTA's vibrating jewelry promises more subtle notifications

Do you remember Ringly? The idea behind it was that people would use a vibrating ring to alert you about incoming calls, emails or text messages. If you can imagine that same concept, albeit in a smaller and less gendered package, then you have the starting point for the MOTA Smart Ring. Silicon Valley design outfit MOTA believes that in order to stop people checking their phone during conversations, notifications need to be buried somewhere even less obtrusive (and visible) than on a smart watch, and hey, it's pretty easy to look at your hands, right?

The idea, very simply, is that the screen of the device would face in toward your palm, and whenever you received a call, it would vibrate to let you know. When you got an email or text message, the text would be scrolled across a small OLED touch display that you could read simply by looking at your hands. Once you've digested the contents, you can dismiss it with a swipe and continue to go about your day, and most importantly, not stopping to check your smartphone. Additionally, the SmartWatch will last 36 hours on a single charge, but in order not to compromise its water resistance, would replenish its reserves of power on an inductive charging plate.

I'll admit, that when I first saw the renders and promo video for this device, I was skeptical that squeezing the required technology into a such a small piece of hardware would be possible. After all, if these displays were easily achievable, plenty of other smart wearables would have shaved plenty of heft from their sizes already. Then there's our wariness about how a battery would sit inside this hardware, given that there doesn't seem to be enough space. Unfortunately, while the company does have finished dummy units to show, the working prototype is a little less powerful. In fact, the one model that actually has any technology inside it looks more like this.

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So far, the device can only light up one of four different-colored lights, depending on the type of message that you receive. Those wires that are coming out of the back, for your information, are running to the battery terminals, which remains outside of the hardware itself. Given that the company is hoping to have the SmartRing manufactured and mass-produced by January, there isn't a lot of time to resolve these fundamental issues.

Then, there's my objection to the idea that staring at your hand while a ticker-tape scrolls slowly across your finger is somehow less rude than checking your watch or phone. Of course, being distracted and looking at other things during a conversation is rude, no matter the medium, but I'd imagine that reading every word slowly scrolling out would take far more time than a quick glance at a 2-inch display located on your wrist.

Still, we're at such an early stage in the SmartRing's life that we can only be hopeful that MOTA can demonstrate some real innovation here. If you'd like to get on board, then the device will retail for $100, but if you pledge to the company's $150,000 Indiegogo campaign, you'll get a SmartRing for $75. The clever jewelry will be available in "Midnight Black" or "Pearl White," and if you're worried about the one-size-fits-all approach, don't be: the company promises that a sizing accessory will enable all shapes and sizes to wear the device.

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