Get ready for yet another wearable… Neyya, a Bluetooth ring designed for remote-controlling other mobile devices, is finally launching today after a lengthy post-crowdfunding delay and a substantial rethink of the original concept.
We first came across the startup back in January 2014 when it demoed a prototype version of its smart ring — then called Fin — at our hardware battlefield competition at CES. The initial idea was an optical wearable that could turn the entire hand into a swipeable and tappable interface space — a concept that enabled the startup to raise more than $200,000 from over 1,600 backers on Indiegogo, with a launch pegged for September 2014.
In the event, the gesture-based functionality has been dialed right back to a swipeable touchpad on the ring itself. And the launch is happening now — more than a year later than planned. By no means an uncommon tale on the hardware crowdfunding trail.
Neyya, as Fin is now called, is priced at $139/£129 in a titanium finish, or $179/£159 in gold plate. It’s available to buy direct from the startup’s website — with U.S. and U.K. retailers including Bloomingdale’s and Selfridges stocking it from November 26. Indiegogo backers will also be (finally) getting their rings today.
Why the long delay? President Sonia Hunt explains the team went through a partial pivot, redesign and rebranding after realizing their original concept was not going to pan out as they’d hoped.
“After the crowdfunding and the prototype that we showed at battlefield in Vegas we did some more work and we realized a couple of things. We had brought on some specialists and even physicians, in terms of placement of the ring, and we did a lot of work on metrics of the hand,” she tells TechCrunch.
“The ring is now recommended as such that you’re wearing it on your index finger, with your thumb controlling the smart surface… It makes sense from a tap and swipe perspective when you’re using your thumb on that smart surface.”
‘”When we raised that Indiegogo round as well we did realize that we needed to build custom battery, certain custom components, so we did raise funding [from Kalaari Capital, although it’s not disclosing how much as yet],” she adds. “What we realized then after launching [the crowdfunder] was that we really did need to spend the time to rethink certain parts of the technology. And we didn’t want to put something out just to put it out.
“We don’t need to keep putting out devices, just for the sake of putting them out. So we’ve always been very focused on core feature functionality in the workspace and on the play side — which is why this doesn’t have a screen, which is why it doesn’t have tonnes of feature functionality; it’s very focused. So we kind of, after battlefield, really had to regroup and think about was it the right product, and if not how are we going to make it better. To really be a product that people could use and it could enhance their life.”
As well as enabling remote control of — for instance — presentation software running on a laptop, so the Neyya user doesn’t have to rely on a standard clicker, say, to move through the slides in their presentation, the smart ring also includes some notification features — joining the ranks of other notify-me-selectively connected jewelry offerings, such as Ringly and Vinaya.
Albeit Neyya is mostly focusing on the remote-control use-case — and is therefore primary targeting professional users who give lots of presentations, such as sales staff.
Custom notifications are a secondary use, with the companion Android or iOS app used to set up to three priority callers for whose comms the ring will buzz. Other secondary notification features include LEDs to set custom reminder nudges such as to take medication or take some time out to relax.
“The primary use is all around the entrepreneur business professional. On the work the main use-case is for people who are out and about doing presentations. Turn on Bluetooth and you can remote control to move through your Keynote presentation, PowerPoint or Presi,” Hunt adds.
The ring’s design is intended to be unisex, while it comes in three sizes: small, medium and large. Battery life is around three days if it’s used for three to four hours per day, according to Hunt. It charges via a base station, taking 90 minutes to be fully juiced.
Also launching today: an Android SDK for Neyya, with iOS due shortly, to enable third parties to create custom functionality for the wearable to make it fit their own needs.
“Where does this go? We’ve already had two fashion designers and a watch designer in Denmark approach us for a custom version of the ring,” says Hunt. “And also a company that’s approached us in the enterprise software space in warehouse management — they see use of this where right now on the floor their employees are using two handheld devices to do work. So they love this idea of getting them out of holding anything but the ring, and the ring through a custom app talking to their system.”