TI sports watch for hacking

How would you like to have a 3-axis accelerometer, pressure sensor, temperature sensor, RF wireless, and an LCD screen in a development package?  What if we told you that you can have it in the form factor of a wristwatch offering from Texas Instruments? How much would you pay for such a device? Quit guessing, you can pick it up for just $49 with an estimated delivery in mid-February of next year.

Our tip-line has been packed with emails about this since it was announced on Monday. The device ships with the firmware to serve as a sports watch with heart rate monitor. The price is pretty good just for that functionality but this package also includes a USB programming and emulation dongle so that you can develop your own firmware. It looks like the included development software is written for Windows but we’re hoping you can get it running on other platforms as well.

The LCD is a segment display, so you won’t see DOOM running on board. That said, we expect your first project to turn this into a wireless controller using the buttons and accelerometer.

Comments

  1. mark says:

    ooooooooooooooooooooooo this looks like some fun.
    would be awesome to see 2 or 4 of these implicated ats motion detection for each limb of a person and make it a useful interface for virtual reality stuff. i imagine this could be usefull in “wii” control and such for the arobics and other things but we shall see how it turns out

  2. Skitchin says:

    Very very neat, I actually kind of like the idea of a watch as an input device. But what I’m also wondering is the ways games could take advantage of heart rate monitors. For example, more accurate calorie tracking in Wii Fit. Or what if Thriller/Horror games took note of what sort of little jumpy things makes your heart beat faster.

    Of course, looking now on the TI wiki that the Heart Rate Monitor functionality is limited to a compatible chest strap device, ugh, figures… Still, the functionality looks very intriguing, and the open approach they’ve taken means they should be selling loads more of these things.

  3. yh says:

    Its really good to see companies like TI and ST Micro embrace the hobbyist crowd, even in a small way. I was at a company meeting where a representative from Atmel spoke and I was very worried by his remark that they were going to shift their efforts from the hobbyist market due to (unsurprisingly) low margins and profits. Keep the niche market happy, and you’ll never know when that next big order will come in from the engineer who now has to recommend a MCU for their company’s new product. Guess which brand their gonna choose? Yup… the one they got to play with and know the most.

  4. ClutchDude says:

    Hmmmm…

    I’d perhaps use this an access device. No need to carry a card around when your watch can double as your keycard access.

    Rather than a passive, I’d go for a mode where you press down a button and unlock a door, much like a car dongle works.

    How to make it secure? Your guess is good as mine.

  5. Rick Keller says:

    Make it secure by having it encrypted based on your own heartbeat plus or minus. If somebody else puts it on, the average is likely to be different.

  6. cptfalcon says:

    I was hoping to hack an old swatch paparazzi SPOT watch, with a much nicer display… but this is pretty cool. If only it had a better display :(

  7. RevAaron says:

    Man, I’m so getting one of these! It’d be great to replace my Polar chest strap/watch set up with, get some logging out of it, etc. Among other things!

    @Skitchin: Uh, what do you expect? Anything with built-in firmware or software is only going to be compatible with X, Y and Z out of the box. Depending on the model you get, it supports 433, 868, or 915 MHz; no reason you couldn’t use any sensor talking on those frequencies.

  8. Mike says:

    Not sure it’s still active but you can actually put an order in for one of these for $25 instead of $49. Use the coupon code “MCU2009-06″. This is from the MCU day they had back in September and makes this a bit more interesting.

  9. Skitchin says:

    RevAaron: I was hoping the HRM was actually built into the watch. I have a chest strap but more often than not I just don’t feel like throwing it and a watch on before I hop on my bike.

  10. Skitchin says:

    @Mike: Works! Thanks a LOT!

  11. Skitchin says:

    Jeez sorrynshit for triple posting, but just thought I’d note that the product link in the article is for the World Wide version… http://www.ti-estore.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Product_Code=EZ430-Chronos-915 appears to be the North American version, though I’m not sure if it matters…someone please tell me, because I just ordered worldwide version =P

  12. AllenKll says:

    “How to make it secure? Your guess is good as mine.”
    The data sheet says it has a built in 128 bit AES encryption/decryption co-processor!… FRICKIN’ AWESOME

    I’m curious what the time between battery charges will need to be… I didn’t see any specs regarding current consumption, although there could be some interesting three axis power saving schemes… like only display time when my wrist is bent into a “looking at it” position.
    or maybe you need to shake it to make it come on.

    I want a couple of these!

  13. MS3FGX says:

    @AllenKll:

    These types of displays are the least of your battery concerns on a device like this. The LCD will take comparatively nothing to run when you consider all the other hardware this thing has onboard.

    Personally, I would much rather it had a dot matrix display, as you could convey much more information. But for this price, it is hard to complain.

  14. Igor Peixoto says:

    The TI guys already made the remote with the accelerometer and buttons, they even throw in an windows app to use it to control the mouse cursor and Power Point presentations. Already pre-ordered mine on the MCU Day.
    I could even play around wiht it, it’s a must have if you are into the msp430 ucontrollers.

  15. WestfW says:

    As Mike implied, this was announced and made orderable for MCU Day attendees several months ago, so there may be a long line in front of you if you order one now. IIRC the first “demo” was at the Embedded Systems Conference about a year ago…

    Putting together the details to offer a demo platform like this in significant quantities for $50 sounds like a daunting task. (actually, even for some of the simpler cheap demo platforms like the EZ430…)

  16. Anthony says:

    Actually, that Feb. ship date seemingly only applies to one of the EU versions.

  17. rbjacobs says:

    Pressure sensor? Nice, now I can finally have a skydiving altimeter I can program myself. Would be nice to have altitude, drop rate and hart rate monitored in one nice package.

  18. Oys says:

    Should I get the 433 or the 868 version (I live in Scandinavia).

    Also: This is a cheap sensor for monitoring sleep patterns. You could connect it to an alarm clock which wakes you up when you are in REM-sleep (commercial products that do this exist).

  19. Tom says:

    I’ve ordered one, it’s a nice watch for 41 dollars including shipping. It’s even got some awesome features! Now to find me a cheap, compatible chest strap…

  20. pppd says:

    @Oys I think both 433 and 868 are legal in Europe. I’d go for a 868MHz version.

  21. threepointone says:

    I don’t think you should necessarily be looking at this as a good hobbyist’s dev system. I don’t think TI is really targeting hobbyists at all with this particular system–I’ve been following this and some stuff on the msp430f5xx cores (which is what’s inside the cc430, iirc), and there’s been a crapload of silicon and debugging bugs with this chip. Hopefully they’re fixed by now, but I don’t think this is exactly for the faint of heart, since people have been having quite a number of debugging issues with the chips. Also, this chip is really designed for more integration and lower power, things that I’m pretty sure your typical hobbyist’s project don’t consider much. Keep in mind that if you’re doing anything in the watch form factor and actually want to be making something usable, you’re going to have to code very carefully to keep the power down.

    Heart rate monitoring might sound cool and might seem as if it might actually be just a fun hobbyist’s project, but I think this is actually a market TI is currently trying to create.

    Keep in mind, too, that gcc and all of the free unlimited compilers (and a lot of the not free compilers, too, for that matter) for msp430 won’t work at all with these guys–these are top of the line, brand new ICs, and I doubt any of the free software guys are going to bother updating their compilers anytime soon.

  22. gtd5_grump says:

    I just ordered one too. Hobby project or not, this thing is too cool and affordable not to pass up.

  23. threepointone says:

    oh and btw, according to digikey the ship date is in january.

    don’t get me wrong with my last comment–this is the COOLEST THING EVER, and I’ve been waiting for the CC430 series of ICs to come out since a year ago or so, and I was actually getting worried that TI was scrapping the project because of management problems or something since it’d taken so long, but now it turns out the chip is actually coming out–this is GREAT!

    Just wanted to give a heads up that this might not be the easiest project to work with.

  24. themark says:

    And… with a little rubbing compound you can remove that hideously out of date TI logo and make it look 200% better

  25. mic says:

    Wow as already stated the heart rate monitor watches used to be hundreds of dollars. Without the programmability…. Pure badass.

  26. Deyjavont says:

    Hell, just to have a watch that tells time and has TI’s name on it, it is worth the $50.

    (When was the MCU Day? Because I noticed this on thier website for the last two months when I was researching the ez430)

  27. Will says:

    Mike’s coupon code worked. $30 and change, shipped. I’m pumped.

  28. blue carbuncle says:

    I’m going to use mine as a pedometer and possibly a remote notification of when the microwave is done. Cool stuff though.

  29. Futureboy says:

    Shame it’s not BLE in the watch rather than proprietary wireless. :(

  30. pppd says:

    Is it true you have to disassemble the watch every time you want to upload new firmware?

  31. Tom says:

    Nope, it supports over the air firmware upgrading.

  32. polossatik says:

    Hey thankx for the coupon… 92 usd for 2 with shipping to EU, not to bad…

    no let’s forget about this and then have a nice surprise somewhere next year :)

  33. radon222 says:

    The accelerometers would lets you count your steps (arm swings) without an extra device. I need to monitor my cadence (number of steps/minute) for running so this would be really useful…

  34. chango says:

    @pppd: There’s a way to download firmware via wireless. The only time it needs to come apart is if you need to use the in circuit debugger.

  35. Leonard says:

    Brilliant, the coupon works, ordered two to see if they can talk to each other, for the fun of it.
    I may want to try to give an old RF gps unit that I have laying around a second life with this.

  36. Ben says:

    I keep trying to order one but it won’t process it. I get the error:

    Unable to authorize payment: Error reading from ‘https://www.ti-estore.com/auth.asp’: Invalid HTTP response

    when I put my mastercard details in.
    Trying to order from the UK, is anyone else having this problem?

  37. it0 says:

    @Ben

    I had the same problem, and emailed them about it, and they called be back as well. I ordered them the next day during business hours and then site work ed fine???

    @oys

    433 is available in February where the 868 is available on mid december. 433 is interesting because remote doorbells use this frequency as well, so that alone would be a fun hack/prank. I ordered the 868 one, because I want one NOW!

  38. Ben says:

    @it0

    Yeah, order went through in the end after trying to place it on and off for about 5hrs. A web search shows that this is a common problem with their store, often you have to call up when it happens but I guess I got lucky in the end.

    Ordered the 868MHz too!! Now lets get learning :o)

  39. chango says:

    @radon222: Swinging one’s arms doesn’t seem like it would be usable in place of footfalls. I suppose you could buy two of these watches and use one as a belt or shoe worn pedometer slave to the one on your wrist.

  40. 3rix says:

    Damn, that gives me a hardon…

  41. oys says:

    Look what I found: GCC toolchain MSP430http://mspgcc.sourceforge.net/.

    Now I will be ordering an 868-version (maybe it will one day talk to an 868 xbee.

    I can think of lots of ways in which this could be developed into a commercial product:

    -Man down monitor (for security and health sector)
    -Researching sleep-patterns/daily activity (using accelerometer)
    -Panic alarm button (for security and healt sector)
    -Smart alarm clock that won’t stop ringing until the accelerometer detects you are up and moving.

    Will be interesting to measure what kind of range this thing gets.
    -

  42. duddface says:

    thanks to @mike got mine for $30.00. looking forward to pair the CC430 with a MSP430 for sensor networks

  43. Peter says:

    I’ve got a bunch of Home Easy home automation sockets which use 433MHz. I currently control them from my PC with the help of an Arduino. Would be awesome to able to the lights in my house on and off using a watch.

    Unfortunately the TI eStore seems to be broken again as I keep getting the Invalid HTTP response error. I guess they’ve got until February to fix it.

  44. Vin says:

    This looks like a great product with a lot of potential.

    What would all of you consider the PRO’s and CON’s of getting a unit with 433MHz vs 868Mhz vs 915MHz??

    ex. Battery life, bandwith, range, application compatibility, “hackability”, functionality, etc. etc.

  45. oys says:

    @Vin: I was wondering about the same thing. 868 is legal in Europe. 915 is legal in US. 433 is legal both places. Apart from that I don’t know

  46. Vin says:

    @oys

    Interesting, I wasn’t aware of the legality. I thought it was just more accepted to use certain frequencies in different areas.

    I was doing some research on these freq’s and each one has it’s pros and cons. For example one does not have heart rate monitor support whereas it does have compatibility with other devices like xbee. Another frequency is also able to handle more bandwidth, but it may suffer in battery life as a result. Another freq has greater range but suffers in compatibility. Etc etc.

    There are many trade-offs we should all consider before purchasing. I just wish there was a definitive list/table of pro’s and con’s of each freq. that addressed issues like battery life, bandwith, range, application compatibility, “hackability”, functionality, etc. etc.

    Any ham radio + hardware developers out there? I’m sure people with this type of background might be able to give us the right info.

  47. Peter says:

    Finally got mine ordered. I gave up with the website and put it a support request, they phoned me up the next day and took my details to complete the order.

    For those of you wondering what frequency to get, take a look at this for pairing the watch with an Arduino:
    http://hackaday.com/2009/08/30/cheap-wireless-for-microcontrollers/

  48. Perplexed says:

    Has anyone gotten what was ordered. The ship date changed from DEc 14th, to look at product wiki for info. Come on TI you do better than that…

  49. Ka says:

    Yep just got mine today…

  50. hexphreak says:

    Does anyone have a discount coupon code still working? Mike’s seems to have expired. Not that it’s overly expensive, mind you – quite cheap for what it packs -, but of course, every bit helps.

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