Smart Canvas WOW “Factory and Fantasy” report 2/3

An initiative by Smart Canvas started with the “SMART CANVAS x 8, ‘what is time?’ A new way to experience time, by eight creators,” which was presented in 2010 at the Tokyo Midtown. For this exhibit, WOW captured a watch, as a new experimental marker to create designs from a new perspective, and devised a worldly view that represents WOW. At this time, the framework, such as, the worldly view of Factory and Fantasy, and the connection between the graphics on the display and the band, had been established.
Three years later, the commercialization of the product was officially decided, and the development, of the design for the new product, began. In commercializing the product, however, there were many challenges to overcome.
The first problem we faced, was improving the content based on the usage. Since we were using a hardware called EPD for the first time, we searched for the ways to achieve best visual depiction by a repeated process of learning and planning technical aspects, in order to decide which parts to produce. Moreover, due to the small size of the product, there was a limited storage capacity of image data. Both companies repeated trial and error, to determine how to produce scenes within the limited capacity and incorporate elements with a plenty of variations.
There were two key points for WOW. First was the connection of the graphics between the display and the band. In the conceptual model, there was a line always connecting them. However, in commercializing the product, it was determined that the kind of camera work envisioned by WOW would be too difficult to use, therefore it was necessary to reevaluate the design. Through many discussions with the Seiko Epson team, it became evident that they held the top of the hour (exact time, like 12:00) as a special moment. Therefore, the graphics were designed to temporarily connect at the top of the hour, to give a special meaning to that moment in time.
The second point was to avoid repeating the same thing everyday. It is necessary to avoid repeating the visual components, such that the users do not get bored. However, as mentioned above, the storage capacity was limited, thus incorporating the images of different scenes everyday was challenging.
contents special 2
At this time, we received news from an engineer that a new function was added. It was a special layering function, in which a special image could be rendered on specific days. As a result, it became possible to overlay special graphics atop normal mode, to create a rich variation. WOW added special designs, based on the seasons and yearly events. A special care was given to make sure that the normal mode will not break down, due to the added graphics.
When the graphics design started to come together, the next challenge was how to successfully display tone gradation on the EPD panel. By composing together the two tone layers, after tone treatment, we discovered the emergence of a moire pattern in the image. This pattern was indispensable for the lights on a light house or in the special graphics, as mentioned above. We prevented the creation of moire pattern by integrating the layers as much as possible, to represent the images  in a single layer, and in other cases, by turning one of the layers into a black layer.
During development, we displayed and evaluated the images on the EPD panel, and repeated the process, by trial and error, each time this problem occurred. Neither of us resigned to compromise in the design, which made things difficult, however, we were able to develop a collaborative structure where the designers and the engineers both contributed to the design and the technological solutions. Through these processes, we overcame a variety of problems in the display and the capacity, and  realized a wristware that brings joy to the users without any awkward discomfort.
The above processes were completed in mere three months, and the product hit the market half a year later.