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The full Neptune Suite contains a tablet with detachable keyboard, a Pocket screen, the Hub that 's worn on the wrist, earbuds, and a dongle for streaming. Neptune
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The entire group runs on a customized version of Android Lollipop. Neptune
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A shot of the Tab device Neptune
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A detail of the magnetically attached keyboard for the tablet. Neptune
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The non-interactive portions of the casings all sport a texture that echoes the Neptune logo. Neptune
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At the core of the Suite lies the idea of solving the continuity problems that come as a given in our current computing lives. Neptune
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The Hub itself is meant to be highly glanceable but also relatively full featured for a wrist-worn device Neptune
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The core technology is something called Wigig, which allows content streaming from the Hub to the Tab and Pocket with noticeable latency. Neptune
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The Hub is, however, fairly beefy as a result of all its internal hardware. Neptune
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The earbuds in the Suite can be linked and worn like a necklace, thus solving the problem of tangled cords. Neptune
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The earbuds also serve double duty as a charging cable. Neptune
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When Neptune launched its grand idea for upending the smartphone ecosystem, many of the responses boiled down to: Huh?
Sure, the idea sounded downright radical: Instead of having a smartphone that streamed to other devices like a smart watch, the Neptune Hub and Pocket were created with the opposite relationship in mind. First, there was Hub, a smartwatch powerful enough to run apps, take calls, and send messages. Then, there was pocket, a relatively dumb screen that fit in your pocket, like a smartphone—but wouldn’t be much more than an input device, when called for. “Most of the negativity was from people that don’t see this as a first start,” says Simon Tian, the 20-year-old founder of Neptune. “They thought we were just going to stop at the pocket screen.”
They’re not. Today, Neptune is launching what they call the Suite, a additional group of devices meant to augment the Hub. Rather that just the Android-powered Hub and Pocket, there’s now the Tab, a tablet which comes with an attachable keyboard. There’s also a dongle that’ll stream to your TV, and a set of wireless earbuds that you can wear around your neck, and which cleverly doubles as a charging cord. It’s all selling for the price originally announced for the Hub and Pocket: $899 at retail, or a couple hundred less if you pre-order via Neptune’s just-launched Indiegogo campaign.
Working with industrial design firm Pearl, Neptune has already done much of the industrial design and component planning required to start intensive tooling and testing. Moreover, Neptune has now revealed that the core technology that makes all this work is something called WiGig, a new wireless protocol that allows streaming from the Hub to all the other devices at speeds up to 7 gigs per second—which Neptune claims will create latency too small for anyone to notice, unlike previous streaming protocols.
Now, it’s just a matter of funding and proving that there’s a market for such a novel experiment in computing.
Tian isn’t shy about what Neptune is supposed to become. As he writes on their Indiegogo page:
This is only the beginning of a whole new computing era. Imagine a world where devices are so commoditized that they’re just part of the environment. They can be everywhere; in your home, at the office, in your car, in restaurants, shopping malls, schools… Need a screen? Simply find one and use it as yours.
Devices are also a lot more easier to design and produce, enabling product designers and manufacturers to potentially create an infinite variety of devices. Screens can be embedded into household appliances, cars, walls, and much more. Everything will become smart, by simply becoming accessories for your wrist.
This vision actually has precedent in the annals of computer science. In the early 1990s, Mark Weiser was arguing that computers would become ubiquitous tools found everywhere in our environment. Rather than being personal computers, they would mold themselves to the needs and personal preferences of whomever was using them at the time. This was the original thinking that preceded Minority Report and Her by many years: You’d walk into a room, the computers in it would know who you are, and you’d be able to resume whatever stream of work or play that you’d been involved with.
The Neptune Suite is probably the first time that someone has been either far-sighted enough—or crazy enough—to make that impersonal computing ideal a reality. Indeed, perhaps the biggest UX insight behind their idea is that the continuity problems that bedevil our digital lives simply go away if a single, wearable computer becomes a central computing node. No more synching between your tablet and phone. No more weird transitions, as you try to recreate internet searches or migrate photos or profiles from one device to another. Moreover, the entire ecosystem gets cheaper overall, when all of your screens aren’t simply duplicating each other’s computing power.
The technology seems ready, or least very close to being so. It makes you wonder whether Apple, Samsung and the like might start tinkering as well, or if Neptune has enough of a head start to launch a relatively tiny, but nonetheless radical product right under their noses.