Fashion Tech: Intel, Opening Ceremony and CFDA Unveil MICA Wearable

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After being teased at New York Fashion Week, Intel, the CFDA and indie boutique/fashion brand Opening Ceremony today unveiled MICA, their wearable tech jewelry line that will be sold exclusively at Barneys New York and OC’s boutiques in New York and Los Angeles starting next month.

Short for My Intelligent Communications Accessory, the price has been lowered to $495 (from the original “up to $1,000” price point). And despite the photo posted on Intel’s Instagam feed from the press event at Dia:Chelsea, it doesn’t require a smartphone to work thanks to a tie-in with AT&T.[more]

MICA’s features include:

• vibrating alerts for notifications from Facebook and Google

• “Time to Go” reminders from TomTom that adjust to location and time required to get to appointments

• a “Near Me” feature powered by Yelp local search for restaurant suggestions and reviews, and directions via Garmin GPS    

• fashion-forward touches include 18k gold coating; “black water snake skin, pearls from China, and lapis stones from Madagascar” on one bracelet; “white water snake skin, tiger’s eye from South Africa, and obsidian from Russia” on the other

• a battery life up to 48 hours and security features including remote access, locking and a device locator function

• customization: “Make your own bespoke MICA bracelet with a custom digital wallpaper designed by Opening Ceremony”

• embedded with a two-year data plan with AT&T, it doesn’t rely on a smartphone for connectivity—but does include a SIM card.

“We really approached this first and foremost about why would a woman want to wear this everyday, and how can it be incorporated into her wardrobe,” Humberto Leon, creative director at Opening Ceremony, told Reuters.

“Aside from aesthetics, we wanted function,” he also commented. “We wanted to know how something could be useful to the modern person—and it’s exciting to see how it can fit, seamlessly, into multiple persons wardrobes.”

“MICA captures Intel’s philosophy that technology should enhance jewelry in order to make wearable technology truly ‘wantable’ in addition to seamless and productive,” stated Ayse Ildeniz, VP and GM for business development and strategy, New Devices Group at Intel. Below, she tells USA Today‘s Ed Baig more about the balance of fashion and functionality:

“MICA acts as an extension of a customer’s smartphone, for those times when it’s not convenient to carry with you,” added Chris Penrose, SVP, Internet of Things, AT&T. “It allows customers to receive texts and email notifications so that they can stay connected, while still wearing a fashionable jewelry piece to almost any occasion.”

Opening Ceremony’s blog post on MICA’s functionality explains,

It has nothing to do with your smartphone. AT&T assigns a SIM card to each MICA and provides (unlimited local and) international 3G coverage so it operates as a free agent—no ‘pairing device now,’ no bluetooth needed. And no, it doesn’t ‘talk’ to you, it doesn’t play music, it doesn’t count calories or steps, it doesn’t monitor your pulse. It does send you text messages (from your own curated list of VIPs), calendar alerts synced to Google and Facebook, and email from up to two Google mail accounts. Between each charge, MICA lasts for about 48 hours. 

Engadget’s reviewer felt it was more style than substance, geared too much to fashionistas and not enough to techies:

“Adding VIP contacts has to be done via a web interface. You can’t even respond freely to incoming messages. Unlike the Gear S or any number of Android Wear watches, there’s no way to input your own words via touch or spoken word. The best you can do is select one brief, canned response from a series and wait for the inevitable reply. Both companies eagerly admit that the limited feature set was exactly what they wanted, but I can’t help but feel a touch shortchanged considering its cost.”

TechCrunch’s reviewer, meanwhile, was impressed at the device’s ability to cut through the noise: “Since the bracelet comes with its own Sim card and number, users will be able to ‘filter’ anything that comes through the MICA by only offering that specific phone number to VIP friends and family. That way they’ll always get through in a way that isn’t distracting for the recipient.”

As Reuters notes, Intel is just getting started in the wearables game, as in March it “bought fitness bracelet maker Basis Science and it has teamed up with watch retailer Fossil Group to develop other wearable computing devices.”

Get more details in the press release, and watch the video below—starring Rashida Jones—to see MICA in action.

[Images via Intel, Opening Ceremony]

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