FlexEnable’s Massive New Wristband Shows All That You Shouldn’t Do With a Wearable

DSC07212.0Over the past year FlexEnable (nee Plastic Logic) has been showing off increasingly sophisticated flexible E-ink, LCD, and AMOLED screens. And now The Verge reports that at MWC this week FlexEnable has is showing off a screen you can wrap around your wrist.

But they haven't come up with a reason why you would want to.

The new FlexEnable demo unit features a massive OLCD ("O" for organic) mounted in a metal frame, and it can't really do anything. It's only semi-functional in that the screen works, but only to play a video which demos some of the ways you might use such a wearable.

The screen gets its flexibility from the plastic-backed transistors that Plastic Logic has been developing for the past decade. You can use them to wrap your electronics around any curve, and that includes screens. According to FlexEnable, an OLCD can achieve the same resolutions as regular LCD while using the same amount of power and improve upon regular LCD screens by curving to fit the surface behind it - a wrist, for example.

But why would you want to use this in a wearable?


I'm not a huge fan of smartwatches, but that's mainly because I can see the hype exceeding the actual usefulness (I also am indifferent to watches in general).

But they are small and pretty, while the FlexEnable demo unit, on the other hand, has a huge screen which can't be viewed all at once. Its sheer size is going to tempt product developers to pack in a battery and electronics which would make this a massive shackle that is bound to be heavy on your wrist.

This is less a demo of what can be done than it is an explanation for why smartwatches have such small screens. This monstrosity is an example of what you shouldn't do with a device on your wrist.

Sure, it's the first wearable I've seen that you could realistically use to view office docs and read ebooks, but your arm is going to regret it.

About Nate Hoffelder (11463 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: "I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

12 Comments on FlexEnable’s Massive New Wristband Shows All That You Shouldn’t Do With a Wearable

  1. PipBoy!!

    • Do you mean this? I can’t see the resemblance.

      • Not physically, but functionally.
        In the game world of alternate-timeline 2077 everybody wore a PipBoy wrist computer. (It was a world where they never developed ICs and flat panel displays.
        In the real world, they sold hundreds of thousands of this:

        …so don’t assume a smaller version won’t sell.
        (Looking at your picture, anybody who played the game would’ve reacted the same. 🙂 )

        In fact, given a bit of ruggedization, it would sell like crazy to UPS and other vertical markets as a replacement for industrial tablets. The shackle aspect would be a feature, not a bug. 😉

        • “In fact, given a bit of ruggedization, it would sell like crazy to UPS and other vertical markets as a replacement for industrial tablets. “

          UPS and other shipping depts/companies would not be interested. They’ve already moved to ruggedized handhelds which are getting thinner with each generation. Also, “would you sign my wrist, please” just sounds silly.

  2. Two words:
    “wrist sweat”

  3. Reminds me of the series of “Sequential Art” strips starting with this one.

  4. Looks like it should be able to shoot (“fricken”) laser beams, in which case it should be worn on ones dominant arm (or, if one is a shark, on ones head)… but if it can’t shoot laser beams, what good is it?

  5. What is regretting in this article is that it doesn’t not understand the difference between making a product and making a demo. Bulky Electronics on PCB in this demo will be compacted into microchips on product. Flexenable is a display company therefore only screen matters to them. The rest of the electronics is used as development platform and can obviously be fit to use by product makers.
    Again It requires to understand the difference between a component and a product.

    • I too understand the difference between a component and a device. I simply believe that your component is too big to be usable on a wrist, and that it is so large that it will tempt device makers into developing a wearable which weighs too much and is awkward to use.

  6. Vincent, the bulk is understandable given that it’s a proof of concept rather than a finished product. I think the main issue is that you’re demoing your tech in the form of a phablet that’s hard to read because you have to twist your arm to take in all of the screen. You’d do well to show off better use cases.

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