Sony Open SmartWatch Project turns wearable into hack platform

Sony has thrown open its SmartWatch to support alternative firmware, with the company hoping the Open SmartWatch Project will kickstart wearable development and maybe even give it a few new ideas itself. The new scheme – which, unsurprisingly, voids your SmartWatch warranty – allows coders to access the wearable's hardware in new and unusual ways, with Sony detailing all of the components and protocols for the various parts.

Sony may be handing over the keys to the SmartWatch's guts, but there's a compromise to be made if you actually unlock the door. For a start, "by flashing alternative firmware to SmartWatch it will no longer work as intended" the company warns, and users "will no longer be able to use SmartConnect or any compatible SmartWatch app available on Google Play."

Still, that might be an acceptable compromise for those looking for a straightforward and affordable platform to do wearables development on. The SmartWatch currently has a street price of around $95, and there's no shortage of tech: the 65k color OLED touchscreen runs at 128 x 128 resolution, there's Bluetooth, a vibration motor, and an ARM Cortex-M3 processor running inside.

First goal is to get Arduino firmware running on the SmartWatch, with Sony hosting a one-day workshop in Sweden on June 15 to do some collective hacking of the timepiece. Once that can be achieved, SmartWatch developers would have plenty of sourcecode to play with, given the popularity of the Arduino platform.

Currently, though, the only firmware version to download from Sony's project page is the original SmartWatch code, though the company hopes to begin distributing other variations once developers get onboard.

Sony hasn't revealed how many SmartWatch units have been sold, though the wearable didn't seem to take off quite as the company hoped it might. The relatively high sticker price at launch didn't help, nor did the shortage of third-party applications. In the meantime, however, projects like Pebble have renewed interest in the watch form-factor, not to mention long-standing rumors of Apple's own iWatch project.