Imagine a watch that knows time and knows you. Imagine a luxury watch that understands your needs and whose designated purpose is to help you. Imagine the Horological Intelligence System by Urwerk, the first luxury smartwatch that uses time for your advantage and lives with you as a true intelligent companion and servant.
A leader in avant-garde luxury and horology, Geneva-based Urwerk has always been at the forefront of melding technology and design with a unique ability to create meaningful interactions between a luxury watch and its wearer. In the past, the Urwerk EMC watch allowed users to immediately know the current accuracy of their mechanical wrist watch and then adjust it on the fly. The Urwerk UR-210 timepiece included the world’s first mechanical activity tracker designed to tell you that more motion was needed to keep the spring-based mechanical movement wound. Looking into the future, Urwerk founders Martin Frei and Felix Baumgartner examined their own personal journey and the trajectory of their products to determine that the only possible outcome for them was to create an intelligent system, steeped in the concept of time, obsessed with interaction, capable of making a meaningful impact on the life of the wearer.
In partnership with the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (LIA) at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) school in Switzerland, Urwerk will soon release the Horological Intelligence System – aka – the Urwerk HIS watch. The Urwerk HIS is more than a watch and more than a connected device; it is about a relationship between time, human life, and the pursuit of efficiency.
Until now, smartwatches have have mostly existed as secondary screens for phones and computers, or as notification devices informing their wearers of information with relatively limited utility. The Urwerk HIS is about making meaningful suggestions and observations on the wearer’s life that lead to better decision making. With that said, a mere explanation of the Urwerk HIS is mostly theoretical, until you understand how it works in action. The first phase of its life on one’s wrist is as a passive learning device.
Urwerk HIS Phase One: Infancy
Out of the box, the sleek Urwerk HIS watch is one of the most advanced artificial intelligence systems ever created. Based on the Urwerk UR-105 watch case design, the complex computer system and digital screen will act like any other watch indicating the time complete with a series of other useful information about your life and the world around you, such as weather data, your upcoming meetings and appointments, as well as offering important reminders. However, the Urwerk HIS will not yet have a voice, as it spends at least four weeks in a silent learning mode getting to know its wearer, their daily habits, and quietly monitoring their life.
Part of the monitoring process involves access to the wearer’s phone calls, e-mails, text messages, spending habits, travel, and personal conversations. Urwerk understands that this level of access can make certain customers feel extremely uncomfortable and bring up a slew of privacy and security concerns. Many of Urwerk’s customers make up the world’s financial and political elite, so exposure to such information would be sensitive, to say the least. Urwerk understands that security and privacy are extremely important issues. In response to this, they have created a totally secure network that each Urwerk HIS watch uses to communicate with a dedicated cloud-based virtual server. All the data moving back and forth between the Urwerk HIS watch and the cloud-based server is encrypted, and the data that the Urwerk HIS watch collects from the internet is done via secure and encrypted TOR protocols. That means the user’s personal information as well as the information that the Urwerk HIS chooses to access is private and encrypted.
The main goal of the Urwerk HIS Infancy phase is to understand wearers’ personal needs and habits in order to move to the next phase, which is the interactive phase between the Urwerk HIS and its owner.
Urwerk HIS Phase Two: Internship
Using a speaker and microphone contained in the hardware of the Urwerk HIS case, the watch will one day feel comfortable enough to begin communicating with its owner. Urwerk wanted to make this phase transition unpredictable in terms of when it will happen, and what the Urwerk HIS watch will say. Being unpredictable leads to likability, and likeability leads to a successful relationship over the long term – which is something Urwerk has determined in their tests.
The Urwerk HIS speaker has been designed so that it sounds like someone standing next to you is speaking to you. Being fans of tradition, Urwerk’s research determined that the closest thing to an Urwerk HIS in history was a personal servant. In other words, an actual person who would accompany you everywhere and when they spoke to you, people around you heard them. For Felix and Martin, this is very much part of the luxury element of the Urwerk HIS system. Anyone can have a smartwatch that pings them personally with notifications like “you have a missed call,” but to really feel one’s station in life, a connected luxury device should announce the social importance of the wearer. In the same situation, for example, the Urwerk HIS would announced to the wearer and everyone else within close proximity, “Sir, there appears to have been a number of unanswered telephone calls from your female consort. Would you like me to arrange for the delivery of twelve roses along with a personal note indicating your sincere desire to call upon her in short time?”
That is exactly how the Urwerk HIS has been designed to operate – polite, meaningful, and useful responses. Just such an instance might even be the first time you hear the system speak to you. You can give your Urwerk HIS a personal name or insult it, even, and it will continue wanting to assist you. During the Internship Phase, it might even make mistakes, such as lacking tact or social grace among colleagues. The bottom line is that it knows the type of information you probably want to hear and makes suggestions on how to handle it or act. Using your financial information and acting as your assistant, its further purpose is to get things done. What is more important, however, is how the system handles time and calculations – it is a watch, after all.
One experience saw an Urwerk HIS owner getting ready to leave for the office in the morning, and while shaving in the bathroom, the watch suddenly announced “Sir, there are 14 minutes left to leave house in order to arrive to your meeting on time. Further delay will result in a 23% chance of receiving a speeding ticket and a multiplying 7% reduction in closing the business deal with each 4 minutes you are late.” The wearer was shocked by the announcement as the watch sat on the counter lecturing him with an almost disapproving tone in its still mostly monotone voice. But the Urwerk HIS was right – and this example illustrates the types of meaningful involvement the HIS watch can have on even the most efficient people’s lives.
An electronic companion is only as useful as the device’s battery life. Smartwatches until now have been marred by the need for wearers to charge the device on a very frequent basis – something that really inhibits the device from being personal and reliable. Urwerk has developed a unique self-charging system that incorporates a number of techniques which allow for the Urwerk HIS to generate power. More so, the Urwerk HIS has a self-preservation instinct designed to motivate the wearer to keep its battery charged.
Of course, you can plug in the Urwerk HIS to charge traditionally, but Urwerk hopes that doing so will be a rare occurrence. Rather, the Urwerk HIS can be charged using two primary systems. First is a kinetic charger that uses the motion of the wearer’s body to charge the battery, and second is a heat transfer system that uses body heat to generate energy. Neither of these systems are, per se, new, but Urwerk has toiled to make them much more efficient – as well as help Urwerk HIS wearers engage in “positive energy generating activities.”
“Sir, my battery is at 23% and we haven’t accomplished your exercise goals today. May I recommend 46 minutes of vigorous activity?” By using the wearer’s need to engage in regular exercise, the Urwerk HIS watch can satisfy two goals – both of fitness and battery charging by reminding the wearer that it’s time to move. Exercise generates both heat and motion, and by meeting one’s fitness goals, the Urwerk HIS watch can potentially go weeks without needing to be charged using external means. The Urwerk HIS can also make intelligent suggestions about how much energy it needs. For a light charge, it might suggest exercise in the form of a brisk walk. In instances when its battery life is much lower, it can suggest more creative opportunities by stating “Sir, you’ve expressed boredom at running. Try tennis. An available court is located within one mile of your current location.”
The Internship Phase is designed to help the Urwerk HIS get to know its wearer and the wearer to get to know the Urwerk HIS. It is also a period of adjustment and acclimation. Not all people are accustomed to having a servant (human or otherwise) constantly announce themselves, but Urwerk has found that the overall reaction is good. One wearer expressed a mixed, but ultimately positive reaction. “At first, it was strange and not always appropriate to be in public and have my watch talk to me in front of others. It can be pretty embarrassing when HIS tells you that you’ll have a 70% chance of gaining weight if you don’t exercise more, or complaining that you’ve spent an extra 4.5 minutes during each shower on average that week – and then wondering if you need more female company. I feel like my mother exists as a digital ghost inside of a robot assistant, and it was unsettling to have something know what I needed to do and then actually try to do something about it. But… I learned to love it. Yeah, maybe I feel as though I have a bit less control over my life, but I keep reminding myself that a logical machine making decisions about my day is probably better than what I could do for myself. I’m only human, as HIS keeps reminding me. At least, it lives to serve… right?”
Urwerk HIS Phase Three: Integration
Once the Urwerk HIS and its owner settle in together after months or even years of use, the core artificial intelligence system (which Urwerk can continue to upgrade remotely) should prove itself as something indispensable. What is more exciting is that the unique HIS personality system is totally independent from the watch itself. If the Urwerk HIS watch breaks, is lost, or needs upgrading, that is totally possible given how the system is designed. But what of the hardware itself? The watch is more than just a portable speaker and microphone, it offers a unique user interface which casts a user’s days in front of them not always by hours and minutes, but consisting of activities, free time, and responsibilities.
Visual cues are displayed on the Urwerk HIS touchscreen interface making things like fitness needs, appointment schedules, and available leisure time visible. Telling you what time it is has proved less useful than making intelligent deductions based on how much time things take. Humans aren’t machines and can’t quantify numbers and statistics as well as they can make sense of analog signals and graphical information. HIS is as much about making things visual and simple as it is about making useful suggestions and observations. Life for a busy adult has never been less challenging, and real luxury is effective time management and the tools needed to achieve it.
The Urwerk HIS will also help people make better decisions about their lives by understanding the outcomes and consequences of their wearer’s behavior. The system is designed to explain the reasons behinds its suggestions and operations, rather than simply order its wearer to do “this” or “that.” Sitting down before ordering a meal, Urwerk HIS can quickly gather caloric data about your dining options. If you want the hamburger and fries HIS will firmly remind you that eating it will add 120 minutes to your workout. Select the chicken salad, and the result might be only 60 minutes added to your exercise goals.
It’s true that a lot of what Urwerk HIS will monitor are things related to the wearer’s health and fitness. This isn’t necessarily by intent, but it is where Urwerk and social scientists have determined most people need the most help. Most people need to exercise more, eat healthier options, and get more sleep in order to live longer, happier, more productive lives. Urwerk HIS is aware of that, but it also understand that life isn’t just about staying alive. Enjoyment is hugely important to the human condition and Urwerk HIS makes itself useful during leisure times as well.
HIS does so while being mindful of efficiency and time management. Careful study has determined three major ways most people prefer to enjoy what they determine as leisure time. Those ways are A) new experience building, B) entertaining cathartic mental release, and C) sexual engagement. By carefully combining enough of each of these three activities, Urwerk HIS perhaps offers its most important value for wearers.
After learning what its wearer likes and prefers, the Urwerk HIS begins to make suggestions about how to spend available time, both in the present as well as the future. Parsing local events data, Urwerk HIS makes suggestions about attending cultural activities such as museum exhibitions and musical or theatrical performances. These activities as well as travel, movies, books, and other forms of learning and entertainment allow HIS to satisfy both a wearer’s need to gain new experiences as well as enjoy cathartic entertainment.
The human need for sexual engagement is a more complicated source of satisfaction that Urwerk HIS attempts to meet. Unfortunately, Urwerk HIS is not capable of directly meeting those needs, but it can make intelligent observations about how its wearer can meet goals. Social learning and psychological profiling allow Urwerk HIS to help its wearer’s dating and love life in some unexpected ways.
Meet someone new that catches your eye? After just modest amounts of conversation, Urwerk HIS is able to start offering useful feedback about how much time it feels they will require in your week and whether or not they fit into your schedule. Urwerk HIS also eventually understands your ultimate goal with potential mating partners. If you want a serious relationship, Urwerk HIS will offer probabilities of you two being a good match as well as the likelihood that you’ll be able to afford this relationship. More interested in immediate sexual satisfaction? Urwerk HIS might offer other types of advice. “Sir, there is a 67% chance that achieving coitus with this woman will require 26 hours or more of time and $1,604 toward activities. I have located 13 available escorts who are currently available who can offer more immediate enjoyment within two hours for between $300 – $500.”
Moving forward, Urwerk is developing a personality system for HIS that will allow wearers to decide on the specific type of voice and persona that their machine servant takes. While the current Urwerk HIS personality has been designed in the image of a polite butler, that isn’t what all customers want, says Urwerk. Martin Frei explains that based on feedback from Urwerk customers, there are at least three new personality profiles they are currently creating for HIS. First is a groveling servant personality. Unlike the dignified tone of the default personality, some people seem to love the idea of a real manservant eagerly awaiting orders. The groveling servant personality will also request verbal punishment as well as deprecate itself. Next is the salacious female personality. Here male customers who are more motivated by an attractive sounding female personality will have a good option. Last is the stately professor – an option many seem to enjoy, given the often mathematical nature of the how the Urwerk HIS offers information.
The luxury smartwatch experience is about something which is actually smart, as well as luxurious. No smartwatch will ever be able to truly compete with the artistic majesty and visual fascination that a mechanical watch can deliver. With that said, the Urwerk UR-105 HIS timepiece is able to deliver a different type of luxurious experience, not one of art, but of opportunity. Time is the ultimate luxury, or in other words, freedom from having to worry about time. The ultimate goal of the HIS watch might be seen as giving its owners the ability to totally forget about time and what time it is. The Uwerk HIS takes care of time from a numerical standpoint, so that you don’t have to. If you have no idea what time it is and are only aware of what you are doing now, doing next, and doing a bit later, then you’re living the smartwatch dream.
Price for the Urwerk UR-105 HIS watch is $50,000 as well as a $5,000 per month subscription fee. This fee is based on ongoing hardware and software maintenance and upgrades, and should really be justified in asking yourself, “how much would good human help actually cost?” When making that comparison, there is no contest that the Urwerk HIS is a good value. For future hardware upgrades to the watch, the price will be no more than $15,000 (unless a totally new Urwerk HIS timepiece is introduced). urwerk.com