Just because a computer is worn on the wrist doesn’t mean it’s a smartwatch. The new MICA is a connected bracelet that will go on sale at high-end department stores like Barneys and small boutiques. At first glance, it looks less like a gadget and more like a piece of jewelry.
The MICA is designed by fashion brand Opening Ceremony and it looks like a chunky bangle with a curved sapphire-covered touchscreen on your wrist’s underside. Although it is a gadget, it puts looks first: If the MICA doesn’t work as a fashionable bracelet, then its underlying technology won’t matter.
The fashion focus of the MICA also means that it’s specifically directed at women, as opposed to most other mainstream wearable computers, which are ostensibly gender-neutral, but usually conform to the size and fashion expectations of men.
That’s not to say that men can’t wear a MICA if it fits in with their look and they want its features. “Guys can wear it too,” Opening Ceremony co-founder Humberto Leon said. “I wear one depending on the outfit.”
“So far most wearables have been non-aesthetic devices for technologists like us,” Intel SVP of new devices Ayse Ildeniz said. “They weren’t what women want to put on themselves.”
MICA stands for My Intelligent Connected Accessory. The underlying technology was designed by [company]Intel[/company]. It doesn’t require a phone: It comes with a SIM slot — with service provided by AT&T — and can send and receive text messages. Yes, this bracelet has its own phone number.
Whether fashion-forward types want a bracelet that comes with a two-year contract (although that cost is built into the bracelet’s $495 retail price) and a second phone number is still up in the air. Intel and Opening Ceremony see the additional phone number as a feature — thinking users will only give out their bracelet number to the people closest to them, or “VIPs.”
Unlike other connected bracelets or smartwatches, there is no fitness tracking on the MICA. Instead, its primary function is notifications: It can buzz you for a calendar appointment, receive texts on its phone number and send short, canned messages.
MICA also integrates with up to two Gmail accounts and a Facebook account. The smart bracelet can tap into Yelp’s database for contextual restaurant suggestions, and TomTom for turn-by-turn directions.
The MICA is a good example of what’s been called invisible design, which is the idea that in order for for small, wearable technology to become ubiquitous, first it must blend in, either through fashion or design. That idea will be discussed by people like Nest’s Tony Fadell and Medium’s Evan Williams at Gigaom’s design-focused Roadmap conference, taking place in San Francisco this week.
According to Intel, the MICA will have a 48-hour battery life, although that depends on “how much you use it.” There’s a tiny Micro USB port built-into the bracelet for recharging. It will cost $495 when it goes on sale “before the holiday season.”
Images courtesy of Intel/Opening Ceremony