Wearable bracelet turns skin into touchscreen — if it’s real

WASHINGTON — If you’ve seen the video of the Cicret wearable bracelet, it seems groundbreaking – an armband that projects the content displayed on your smartphone onto your arm.

The video shows users pinching to zoom in on maps displayed over their forearms, typing on their skin while taking a bath and surfing the web with a quick shake of the wrist to wake up the mobile device.

“With the Cicret Bracelet, you can make your skin your new touchscreen,” says the product’s website.

Guillaume Pommier, co-founder of Cicret, doesn’t mince words, in a series of phone and email questions from WTOP.

“The Google Glass and the iWatch already passed, and the future is the screen on the skin,” says Pommier.

Cicret’s promotional material says the bracelet comes with an embedded memory card, processor, accelerometer, vibrator, Bluetooth functionality, a USB port and Wi-Fi.

The tiny projector in the Cicret Bracelet beams the phone’s content on the user’s arm, and proximity sensors allow the user to interact with the content.

Dick Tracy, if he were real, would likely look at the Cicret Bracelet and say, “Wow, that’s incredible.”

And it would be, if the Cicret Bracelet were real. But it’s not. At least not yet. And maybe never.

Turning a great idea into a real product

The Cicret Bracelet YouTube video has more than 3 million views, but doesn’t mention that the phone-arm interaction is a computer-generated mock-up. Not surprising, since a prototype Cicret Bracelet hasn’t been invented yet.

“The video we put online is an illustration of what our Cicret Bracelet could allow users to do,” says Pommier.

Pommier says he and three partners are trying to raise money on their own, through PayPal instead of standard crowdfunding vehicles such as Kickstarter.

“We need someone who’d put up some money to allow us to finish a prototype,” says Pommier.

The product could likely be built without much trouble, says technology analysts.

“We didn’t invent anything,” says Pommier. “We just had the smart idea to put together technologies that already exist.”

The Cicret website is DIY and noticeably less professional than other startup operations seeking to bring products to market.

The site contains a brief “About Us” description of the principals, with no descriptions of their previous projects. The website site lists no street address or phone number for the company — only a Gmail address.

Asked about the lack of information on the company’s website, Pommier has an answer: “To be honest it’s because 3 members of 4 on our team are actually working for another company. Obviously we don’t want to be fired because of this second professional activity!”

Before you open your wallet

Given that Cicret’s fundraising strategy has so many out-of-the-ordinary facets, several of my emailed questions asked Pommier to demonstrate that the bracelet is actually in the works. I wrote: “I’m wondering if you might point me toward some evidence that the project exists, beyond a great idea.”

Unlike Kickstarter, in which contributors are rewarded with first editions of the products that are crowdfunded, people who donate to Cicret get listed on the site’s Wall of Fame — and nothing else.

“You will actually notice that we don’t ask money for ‘pre-ordering’ our device, but to ‘donate,'” says Pommier.

This is not the first time Pommier and partners have tried to raise money to build Cicret.

The group ran an earlier Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign but only raised $1,357 toward its $500,000 goal.

Pommier says he shut down the Indiegogo effort after three days because people were preordering the bracelet, and he would not have been able to deliver it if they didn’t reach the full goal.

Pommier says the group is in the process of getting the product trademarked.

The challenge of developing cutting-edge technology

One proven local technology businessman and entrepreneur says taking a project from idea to fruition generally takes money.

Michael Chasen, co-founder and CEO of SocialRadar and co-founder and former
CEO of Blackboard, says building new hardware generally requires more money than new software.

“At Blackboard and SocialRadar we were able to develop it without additional capital,” Chasen says.

He adds that companies trying to raise money for research and development often have to prove to investors “whether the product can be built, whether it would be affordable, and if anyone would use it.”

“Here they’re trying to get the funding up front, and that’s the challenge,” says Chasen.

See the promotional video for the Cicret Bracelet:

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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