Arizona Technology and Innovation: “Moment” Wearable Tactile Device

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Somatic Labs of Phoenix has developed a new device wearable on the wrist and connected to your smart phone that uses the sense of touch to give the user a better sense of time, direction and rhythm. The “Moment” device is manufactured in Tempe. Shantanu Bala, one of the co-founders of Somatic Labs, will tell us more about the device aimed at reducing the need for screen time.

TED: TONIGHT'S EDITION OF ARIZONA TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION LOOKS AT A LOCALLY-PRODUCED DEVICE THAT TELLS TIME AND DIRECTION AND GIVES OTHER INFORMATION BY THE WAY OF TOUCH. THE DEVICE IS CALLED MOMENT AND HERE TO GIVE US THE DETAILS IS SHANTAWNU BALA OF SOMATIC LABS. WHAT IS MOMENT?

SHANTAWNU BALA: IT'S A DEVICE TO IMPROVE YOUR SENSE OF TIME AND DIRECTION.

TED: HOW DOES IT DO THAT?

SHANTAWNU BALA: BY CONVEYING INFORMATION ENTIRELY THROUGH YOUR SENSE OF TOUCH. OUR TYPICAL INTERACTIONS WITH TECHNOLOGOY INVOLVE PUTTING IN HEADPHONES OR TRYING TO WATCH A SCREEN AND WHEN WERE THINKING OF THE SHIFT OF TECHNOLOGY, MOVING TO DEVICES WE WEAR AND PUT ON OUR BODIES WE ASKED WHAT IS IT THAT THE HUMAN BODY DOES BEST AND REALIZE IT IS CONSTANTLY FEELING INFORMATION ABOUT THE ROOM AROUND YOU AND FEELING THE TEXTURE OF THE CLOTHES ON YOUR SKIN AND WE WERE THINKING HOW CAN WE TAKE THAT CONSTANT STREAM OF INFORMATION AND TAP INTO IT AND MAKE IT SO THAT WE CAN TAKE THINGS FROM THE DIGITAL WORLD AND PUT IT TO YOUR SKIN AND THAT'S WHAT WE DID.

TED: YOU'RE WEARING MOMENT RIGHT NOW. AND IN ORDER -- CORRECT ME IF I'M WRONG BUT TO TELL TIME, BASICALLY LIKE PRESSURE POINTS AROUND THE SQUARE THERE. HOW DOES THIS WORK?

SHANTAWNU BALA: YEAH, FOUR MOTORS ON THE CORNERS OF THE DEVICE. AND EACH THEM IS TURNED ON AND OFF IN A RAPID SEQUENCE, ANYWHERE BETWEEN FIVE TO 10 MILLISECONDS, A QUICK PULSE AND WE CAN CREATE THESE PULSES IN RAPID SUCCESSION TO CREATE THE SENSATION THAT SOMETHING IS MOVING ON YOUR SKIN, LIKE SOMEONE IS DRAWING A SHAPE ON YOUR SKIN WITH THEIR FINGER.

TED: HOLD YOUR ARM UP SO THAT THE CAMERA CAN GET THAT. IF IT'S 2:15 OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT, MAYBE -- YOU'LL SENSE SENSATION IN CERTAIN PARTS OF THE WATCH AND YOUR MIND WILL EVENTUALLY SAY IT'S 2:15 WITHOUT HAVING TO LOOK AT THE WATCH?

SHANTAWNU BALA: IT GOES A STEP FURTHER, OF COURSE. YOU'RE TRYING TO EXERCISE AND HIT A SPECIFIC TIME OR RUNNING AND WANT TO KEEP A PACE, YOU CAN GET AN INTUITIVE UNDERSTANDING HOW QUICKLY YOU'RE MOVING BY THE SEQUENCE OF PULSES. YOUR BRAIN START TO JUST LEARN THE PASSAGE OF TIME USING THIS AS AN OBJECTIVE REFERENCE POINT.

TED: AND ALSO THE SENSATIONS ON THAT SQUARE WILL TELL YOU THE DIRECTION YOU'RE FACING.

SHANTAWNU BALA: THERE'S A COMPASS BUILT IN SO YOU CAN ALWAYS HAVE THE DIRECTION OF TRUE NORTH. IF YOU'RE GOING HIKING OR WANTING TO NAVIGATE, IT IMPROVES YOUR SENSE OF DIRECTION AND THIS IS SOMETHING THAT'S BEEN DOCUMENTED IN RESEARCH, YOU PROVIDE A VIBRATION THAT POINTS TO NORTH. PEOPLE LOOK AT MAPS LESS AND THEY HAVE A LOT MORE EASE NAVIGATING AROUND.

TED: FASCINATING, AND ALSO THE IDEA OF -- THIS IS GOING TO BE HARD FOR ME TO BELIEVE. YOU CAN DO CALLER I.D. BY WAY OF THE SENSATION WHAT'S GOING ON WITH YOUR WRIST HERE?

SHANTAWNU BALA: WHENEVER YOU'RE RECEIVING A PHONE CALL, WE TAKE EVERYONE IN YOUR ADDRESS BOOK AND AUTOMATICALLY GENERATE A UNIQUE SENSATION FOR THEM, EVERYONE WHO CALLS FEELS DIFFERENT AND OVER TIME YOU HAVE AN INTUITIVE UNDERSTANDING WHAT IT FEELS LIKE WHEN YOUR PARENTS ARE CALLING OR WHEN A FRIEND OF YOURS IS CALLING.

TED: CAN YOU PUT -- LIKE IF I GOT A CRAZY UNCLE CALLING, CAN THE THING ACT CRAZY, BY NAME OR FREQUENCY OF CALLING?

SHANTAWNU BALA: AUTOMATICALLY BASED ON THE PHONE NUMBER BUT YOU CAN CUSTOMIZE AND CHANGE IT SO IF YOU WANT A HEART SHAME FOR A SIGNIFICANT OTHER, YOU HAVE BEEN THAT AS A SENSATION YOU FEEL.

TED: HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THIS?

SHANTAWNU BALA: STARTED OFF WHEN I WAS WORKING ON RESEARCH AT ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY AND GRADUATED FROM ABOUT TWO YEARS AGO AND WHILE THERE, I WAS WORKING AT A LAB DEVELOPING TECHNOLOGIES FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE BLIND OR VISUALLY IMPAIRED AND TAKING THE VIDEO FEED INTO TOUCH AND I THOUGHT ABOUT WAYS WE COULD TAKE THIS TYPE OF TECHNOLOGY AND BRING IT INTO OUR DAILY LIVES AND SEE HOW WE COULD MAKE ALL OF OUR INTERACTIONS WITH TECHNOLOGY A LITTLE MORE FLUID.

TED:AND TOOK IT FROM THERE.

SHANTAWNU BALA: YEAH.

TED: IS THIS AVAILABLE, GOING TO BE AVAILABLE, IS IT AVAILABLE NOW?

SHANTAWNU BALA: IT'S AVAILABLE FOR PREORDER RIGHT NOW, WE'RE IN THE PROCESS OF MANUFACTURING THE UNITS SO WE'RE GOING TO BE DELIVERING IT FOR CUSTOMERS IN MARCH.

TED: WHAT PRICE POINT?

SHANTAWNU BALA: $179 RETAIL AND WE'RE WORKING ON KIND OF ADDING IMPROVEMENTS AND ENHANCEMENTS.

TED: THIS IS THE THING WHERE UPGRADES COULD BE POSSIBLE.

SHANTAWNU BALA: DEFINITELY. WE'RE ROLLING OUT SOFTWARE UPDATES AND THE APP ON THE PHONE IS GETTING SMARTER.

TED: THESE TACTILE PATTERNS FROM TIME AND DIRECTION AND CALLER I.D. HOW MANY DIFFERENT PATTERNS ARE THERE?

SHANTAWNU BALA: THE NUMBER IS INFINITE BECAUSE OF THE -- HOW QUICKLY THE PATTERNS ARE CHANGING, WE CAN MAKE A LOT OF REALLY DETAILED SENSATIONS

TED: GOOD LUCK COMING OUT OF ASU, I HOPE IT GOES WELL. THANKS FOR JOINING US.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

TED: AND TUESDAY ON "ARIZONA HORIZON" -- PHOENIX MAYOR GREG STANTON WILL JOIN US TO TALK ABOUT IMPROVEMENTS ON SKY HARBOR AND OTHER CITY ISSUES AND AN UPDATE ON THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT SEEING FEWER PROVIDERS AND HIGHER PRICES IN ARIZONA. THAT'S TOMORROW AT 5:30 AND 10:00 HERE ON "ARIZONA HORIZON." THAT'S IT FOR NOW. I'M TED SIMONS. THAW THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US AND HAVE A GREAT EVENING.

Shantanu Bala, co-founders, Somatic Labs

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