This post was originally published on Mashable.
The Black Eyed Peas’ Will.i.am will unveil a voice-controlled wristband smartphone on Wednesday, according to people who have been briefed on the device.
The hip-hop star, born William James Adams Jr, will demonstrate the device and reveal a phone carrier partner at Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce conference in San Francisco. He also plans to provide details on its cost and availability.
Will.i.am developed a 1-inch-wide wristband that can make calls, play music and videos and post to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. He demonstrated the device in April on the UK talk show Alan Carr: Chatty Man.
The race to market for wearable devices is entering a full sprint. The Apple Watch, a device being pitched as a fashion accessory-slash-latest gadget, will reportedly be available early next year. By 2018, shipments of wearable electronics, including smartwatches, will reach 112 million units, up from 19.2 million this year, according to researcher IDC. And while Google and Samsung have already released wearable devices, Will.i.am’s company, I.Am.Plus Electronics LLC, is seeking to make the technology more fashionable.
“I started the company myself; I funded it, used my own money to develop it,” Will.i.am said during the TV interview. “It’s a phone; it has all my music in it.”
The wristband is voice-controlled, allowing you to either say the name of a contact to make a call or manually recite a phone number, according to people who have seen demonstrations of the device. Text messages and emails can also be dictated; the device comes with a Bluetooth earpiece for use in noisy areas or for private conversations.
The device also has a built-in screen that is vertical when facing out, like a watch can slide around on the back of a wrist to make the screen horizontal. This is a better format for watching video or reading longer email messages.
An onscreen keyboard overcomes the challenge of small keys with software that accurately guesses words that are being typed within a few taps, according to the people familiar with the matter.
Will.i.am’s gadget won’t be the first smartwatch to feature cellular network connectivity or an onscreen keyboard. The Samsung Gear S, unveiled in late summer, includes both of those features as well.
With wearable devices either already on the market or, like Apple’s, coming soon, Will.i.am may have to bank on his star power and powerful connections to break through.
Will.i.am’s company, which also goes by i.am+, released its first product in November 2012, the $475 foto.sosho camera attachment for the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5.
The seven-time Grammy award winner is also a technology enthusiast. In 2011, Intel hired him as the company’s chief creative officer and gave him access to their research and development labs. Will.i.am was also founding shareholder in Beats Electronics and he included a song as part of NASA’s Curiosity Mars Space Lab that was broadcast back to Earth in 2012.
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