Mon, Mar 10, 2014 - Page 13 News List

Asustek plans smartwatch with customized controls

Staff writer, with CNA

Asustek Computer Inc (華碩) is envisioning developing a wearable device that can be controlled using voice commands or customizable hand movements, according to the chairman of the Taiwanese PC maker, Jonney Shih (施崇棠).

Shih said yesterday that Asustek’s first wearable device — widely expected to be a smartwatch — will be used to complement a smartphone rather than be launched as a standalone device because smartphones have more mature applications that consumers covet.

OPTIONS

However, the company is considering options for the user interface on the wearable device that are rarely seen on touch-enabled smartphones because of the device’s smaller screen, Shih said.

“There will be more natural user interfaces, such as voice or movement controls, although more breakthroughs are needed in these areas,” Shih said when answering students’ questions at a job fair organized by National Taiwan University.

Another key issue to be addressed for the potential Asustek device is power consumption, which should be lowered to about a tenth of that of a smartphone, even though it will run voice or movement-based features, Shih said.

Asked about Asustek’s strategy to take on challenges from China’s low-cost Android phone makers, Shih described the market as “a must-face challenge” for Asustek and said that his company will tap into the segment aggressively with “attractive prices.”

NOT NEW

Voice or gesture control is actually not a new feature in the booming wearable device market, which could reach US$20.6 billion by 2018 on worldwide shipments of 191 million units, according to estimates by the Industrial Economics and Knowledge Center (產業經濟與趨勢研究中心).

Martian Watches, a California-based developer, unveiled in 2012 the world’s first voice-enabled smartwatch that lets users give voice commands, such as sending or receiving calls and texts, to iPhone or Android handsets.

In October last year, Japanese electronics maker Sony Corp launched its new SmartWatch 2, a water-resistant watch that connects to Android devices via Bluetooth or near-field communication (NFC) wireless technology.

South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co also debuted new smartwatches, the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo, at the Mobile World Congress trade fair last month.

The watches had features for daily living, such as TV remote controls and real-time personal fitness coaching.

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