Missed the GamesBeat Summit excitement? Don't worry! Tune in now to catch all of the live and virtual sessions here.
San Francisco startup OnBeep is finally revealing its much-anticipated wearable — a small clip-on device that lets you chat with others.
OnBeep founder and chief executive Jesse Robbins swung by VentureBeat’s office recently to let a couple of us check out the startup’s first gadget, named Onyx.
Onyx clips onto your shirt or your bag and lets you talk to and hear other people carrying the device with the push of a big button in the middle of the hard plastic gizmo. The voices of others in your chat group come through a speaker on Onyx or headphones you plug in. There’s a volume-control bar and a muting switch, too. On the device’s mobile app for iOS and Android, you can see the location of others in your group, check if they’re muted, and switch groups.
Essentially, Onyx is simple. Push to talk — it’s OnBeep’s minimum viable wearable.
“The whole point is, you’re holding the baby, and you can press the button, and that’s all it’s supposed to do,” Robbins told VentureBeat.
Wearables have come out for all sorts of purposes. Talking with others over a mobile network or Wi-Fi is hardly trendy in the land of wearables. If Onyx takes off, though, that could change.
The team spent many months designing every element of Onyx. The wide ring surrounding the button, which glows blue when you can talk and yellow when Onyx is muted, calls to mind the circles on Nest thermostats. The button itself, which triggers a beep when you hold it down for a moment, representing the go-ahead for you to talk, has an interesting pop to it, sort of like that plastic bubble holding a die in the board game Trouble.
But the hardest thing about building Onyx? Getting the clip right, believe it or not. OnBeep’s team spent six months on that alone.
“It’s not messing your shirt up,” Robbins said. “… The biggest, most important thing we found was that men and women have widely different, disparate articulated needs for how they wear and use this device.” Men who work as firefighters, for instance, are accustomed to big, heavy two-way radios from Motorola.
For women OnBeep talked to, “The single most important thing was that it wouldn’t pull a shirt down or open,” Robbins said.
So OnBeep design engineer Sylvia Wu took to creating a clip that would keep the device hanging onto a fabric without ruining it or weighing too heavily on it.
“We’ve come up with a design that works for all kinds of people and all kinds of fabrics and that is friendly,” Robbins said. “It’s easy to use. It just works. There’s not a whole lot to the app. There’s a lot of complexity underneath in order to make that happen.”
Looking forward, OnBeep wants to add features to the application, and it wants to come out with other wearables, too. But for now, Robbins is only talking about Onyx in all of its simplicity.
In terms of specifications, Onyx is 60 millimeters wide and 26 millimeters tall — slightly larger than a stick of gum. It weighs 46 grams, and the battery, which you can charge with a micro-USB cable, lasts for about 12 hours.
A single Onyx wearable costs $99; a pair will come out to $195. You can pre-order the devices today.
OnBeep announced a $6.25 million funding round in August.
VentureBeat's mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative enterprise technology and transact. Discover our Briefings.