Telling time by touch: Eone Bradley wristwatch for the Blind
Telling time has been the bane of my vision-less life. When I was still in grad school, I was wearing a talking digital watch. It had a button on the face, and when you press the button, it announced the time in a muffled, mechanical voice. It never failed: every class period, I’d accidentally knock my wrist against the table or chair, and the voice would say aloud, “You’ve still got another painful 98 minutes of class.”
Okay, just kidding. It would read the time, but it was embarrassing nonetheless, and I felt like a dunce. My ears would burn, and I’d apologize, even though nobody seemed to care. I just didn’t (and still don’t) like a lot of attention on myself (which is why it’s all the more surprising that I chose to do a televised competition).
Then I took to taking off my talking digital watch and laying it beside my laptop in class. But the problem was, I could still never tell the time without disrupting the class. I’d never know how long I had till break time, or how much time had passed after I’d begun a discussion on XYZ novel. So then, I thought, what was the point of even having a watch?
This is not the first time I’m blogging about a watch. Three years ago, I’d written about the Haptica Braille watch, another timepiece concept, but I don’t think the Haptica project ever took off. I also blogged about a tactile watch, but I never heard more about that either.
Then along came the Bradley watch from Eone. The hubster is a huge Kickstarter fanatic—I mean, he is on this site every day looking at new ideas and concepts. So one day last July, the hubster decided to fund a project called the Eone Bradley, a watch designed with a universal concept to be inclusive of all people, sighted and unsighted alike (hence, the name “Eone” which stands for “Everyone”). For those non-scientists like myself, the watch basically functions by having two bearings, one for the hour and one for the minute hand, that orbit the circumference of the watch face using magnets which are in tune with the passage of time. The result is a watch that is quiet, unobtrusive, and yet still allows both the user with vision and the one without to tell time discreetly.
The hubster is always excited to see a project helping the blind community, so he even sent Eone a note thanking them for their work and introducing his wife who “happens to have won this cooking show on TV.”
A few minutes later, the hubster got a reply from the founder, Hyungsoo, himself. The reply was riddled with exclamation marks, a reflection of Hyungsoo’s adorable, starstruck surprise to find himself two degrees away from me.
As it turns out, Eone was thinking of naming their next design concept after me. I am flattered, but also disappointed that “the Christine” does not sound nearly half as cool as “the Bradley.”
Speaking of which, who is Bradley? Eone named their first product, the watch, after Brad Snyder, a U.S. Veteran who lost his eyesight in Afghanistan, but then who overcame his odds to win the gold and silver medals for swimming only one year after his vision loss. That man’s life trajectory is incredibly admirable and amazing.
I happened to be in Hyungsoo’s city a few days after we’d corresponded over email, so I agreed to meet him up for dinner. He is so passionate about his project and truly captures the entrepreneurial spirit. He told me how he was living with virtually no income after his graduate degree, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. And like Brad and myself, Hyungsoo followed his dream and made it into a reality. And that reality now sits on my wrist.
The hubster and I got our respective Bradleys just a few weeks ago, after Eone’s Bradley received much more funding than Hyungsoo had originally expected. Mine is a mustard yellow band while the hubster’s is a midnight blue. I also got a few extra bands (a metal one included) to switch out whenever I desire.
I can’t tell, but the hubster, whose vocation is in graphics and design, says the Bradley is a fine-looking watch. And so far, it’s been working; I’m able to tell time without my iPhone. (The talking watch died long ago.) I’m not that quick yet at telling time, and often the hour bearing gets knocked out of place, but I gather over time, I will get better, and Eone will improve their next production line of the Bradley. When the bearing does pop out of place, I rotate my wrist slightly until the bearing returns to the magnet and catches. My time-telling has been pretty accurate.
The watch’s face is a little large, but no problem for me, as I like big men’s style watches. My only wish is for the magnets to be stronger so the ball bearings wouldn’t get bumped out of place as often. (It mostly happens with the hour and not the minute, which, I guess, is a little less disconcerting since one usually has a general idea of what hour it is. Oh, and I wish their website was more screen reader friendly. If anything, the Bradley has been a reliable conversation starter.
I appreciate the philosophy behind Eone’s vision. It’s true: we with special needs don’t like calling attention to our disabilities. The Eone Bradley allows everyone to wear the same watch. Thank you, Eone, for your inclusive, universal design. Now we can all tell time through touch.
Do you have a Bradley? What do you think of it? What do you think of the concept and appearance of the watch?