SPY TECH

A high-tech watch strap can turn your fingers into a phone

A startup spun out of Samsung has created a watch strap that purportedly makes it possible for people to answer phone calls using their fingertips.

Since launching on Kickstarter this month, Sgnl has captivated tech blogs by proposing a completely new way to communicate. The technology recalls spy movies and science-fiction novels, leading one blogger to call it “the sci-fi gadget of your dreams.”

The excitement around the smart watch strap has helped Seoul-based Innomdle Lab raise more than $860,000 on Kickstarter as of this writing—far surpassing its $50,000 goal—with 21 more days of fundraising to go. The company expects to start shipping Sgnl in February 2017.

Like bone-conduction headphones, Sgnl works by passing vibrations through the body—except in this case there are no headphones involved. Innomdle claims that audio remains clear even in noisy environments, and because the vibrations are transmitted through the hand and directly to the ear, people nearby won’t be able to hear both sides of a conversation.

The strap is embedded with a microphone to send audio back to the caller, and sensors to track activity. Because Sgnl is an accessory, it works with smartwatches and offers a tech upgrade for “dumb” watches. It also functions as a standalone wristband.

While many Kickstarter projects fizzle, this one appears promising because of its association with Samsung. The electronics giant spun Innomdle out of an internal innovation lab in 2015, and showed off Sgnl at the IFA tech show in Berlin this year.

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