Blocks, the modular smartwatch, is nearing the final stages of its Kickstarter run and getting ready to start making deliveries in May.
This should be the beginning of a new platform that does to hardware development what apps did to software.
We caught up with the developers at their Innovation Lab space at Imperial College London to see the latest developments.
Not only are the final designs taking shape but the operating system was ready to be shown off, albeit in a very early form.
So what can we expect from the Blocks modular smartwatch?
The latest version of the Blocks smartwatch is still not the final model but it's far more sleek and market-ready than anything the company has shown off so far.
Blocks is working with one of the largest manufacturers in the world, Compal, to produce the modular watch. The core of the watch will be smaller than previously seen with a sleek round finish and single button.
Now that the company has smashed two stretch goals on Kickstarter it will be offering Gorilla Glass on the screen and an AMOLED display rather than TFT.
The clasp has also been redesigned. Shown in our shots is the original magnetic offering. The final model will feature a pop and clip clasp that allows it to be resized to fit any wearer's wrist.
A Google bred operating system
Blocks has partnered up with US startup Cronologics to create a bespoke operating system. This company is made up of ex Google Android developers who are working on a simple open source system that allows developers to create smartwatch apps simply. Apps use the same language so only the design front end changes for size and what is displayed, Blocks says.
At launch the OS should come with about 20 Blocks apps as well as more from partners. Over 1,500 developers are currently signed up with Blocks.
Apps will be laid out in a design style that follows the physical layout. In the same way that the watch modules clip together, the apps will be tethered and coloured, with a side-scrolling system to access them all.
The operating system will offer a watch face homescreen which uses bobble notifications. This means the bobbles appear on the outer edge of the watchface to show alerts. At the 12 might be one for emails while at the 1 mark could be one for calendar reminders. These remain until tapped when they become larger for reading and can then be dismissed. This means every type of unread notification should be quickly visible, at a glance.
There will also be an option to pull up the notification panel from the bottom to see everything. Once dismissed, unlike on most Android smartwatches, they will be accessible again from a list page should you wish to go back to a read message for example.
Hardware that works
The basic core of the watch will be similar to the Moto 360. That means a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor and round display, minus that black bar at the bottom plus AMOLED, and a 400mAh battery. There's also accelerometer and gyroscopic sensors for motion detection. There will be Bluetooth LE, Wi-Fi, haptic feedback and voice controls. All that and it should be at least IP67 rated too.
Unlike other watches the modules will allow for upgrades to that basic design, pushing it beyond anything available right now.
Blocks says it will be offering all sorts of modules, not only to consumers but to businesses looking to use them in industry too.
Blocks is also working with a particularly exciting voice recognition company, it can't name right now, that should offer voice controls like no other on a smartwatch so far.
A module for everything
Each module now uses a USB like connector and a small motherboard that can easily have hardware added to it. This then effectively translates signals to work with the core watch.
All these modules use a hot swap system meaning they can be removed or added without turning off the device. Even battery modules can be swapped since the main unit has 400mAh to keep it running. Since the modules system is open source anyone can develop anything for the smartwatch.
Modules due at launch include: battery with up 100mAh, adventure with altitude, temperature and pressure, GPS for location without a phone, NFC for payments and quick connecting, and an optical heart rate module.
The next phase will have units including: a SIM module for network connectivity minus a phone, fingerprint reader, LED for lighting, and a programmable button module.
The third phase will see modules like: an air quality module, camera module, flash memory unit, stress level monitor using galvanic skin sensor, body temperature module and expansion module which will work on another bracelet with other modules to connect to the watch.
Blocks arrives in 2016
The first Blocks smartwatch units will begin delivery in May 2016. There are options to buy alone of with module units as part of a package.
Pricing for Blocks starts at $195 on Kickstarter.
The Blocks smartwatch is still in the developmental stages right now but its potential is already huge.
Imagine if hardware becomes like software did when apps were introduced. Suddenly everyone would be able to start making modules for a smartwatch that can be adapted to suit any need. This is what Blocks represents.
The design of the smartwatch is constantly improving as module and app developers come on board. The worry is that at the moment of launch app availability might not be wide enough if the big apps aren't available immediately. Blocks is working hard to make sure everything is available initially and so that other apps follow soon after.
We're looking forward to the world's first modular smartwatch arriving and what follows this hardware revolution.