Since Intel approached Opening Ceremony’s Humberto Leon and Carol Lim last December about collaborating on a wearable tech accessory, the project has rolled out in three phases: disclosure in January, aesthetics in September, and, as of today, function, when the details of what the accessory actually does were revealed via a panel discussion with Leon; Lim; Ayse Ildeniz, vice president and general manager for business development and strategy of Intel’s New Devices Group; Barneys New York’s fashion director Tomoko Ogura, and Lucky’s Eva Chen, who moderated the event at Dia in New York.
The bracelet, called MICA (My Intelligent Communication Accessory), is a luxury women’s jewelry item that will retail for $495 at various Barneys New York locations and online, and in Opening Ceremony stores and online beginning early next month. It features 18-karat gold coating and a curved sapphire glass touch-screen display on the back of the cuff. There are two styles, one in black water snake with pearls from China and lapis from Madagascar; the other in white water snake with tiger’s eye from South Africa and obsidian from Russia.
As for the technology: The bracelet is an untethered device — it does not need to connect to a phone — that comes with a 3G radio and AT&T SIM card with a two-year wireless service plan included in the price of the bracelet. After two years, the user will have to re-contract with AT&T to continue using MICA. The bracelet links with the user’s Google Calendar and Facebook account for event notifications, and receives incoming texts and e-mails from “important contacts” designated in Gmail. The device has a separate number from the user’s cell phone that will have to be made available to contacts. The user can respond to messages from those contacts via a stock of canned responses that are programmed into the device. For example, “I’ll call you back.” MICA has also partnered with Yelp and TomTom, so that users can access local businesses based on the bracelet’s GPS and figure out travel time and distance between appointments. If the user is roaming a new neighborhood, he or she can access a list of nearby coffee shops or restaurants. Software updates will be available via the Cloud.
When Intel contacted Leon and Lim about partnering on the project, it was under the premise that MICA would be a fashion item as much as a technology device. “It was pretty revolutionary in that they wanted to partner with a fashion brand from the perspective of the accessory first,” said Lim, on working with Intel. Intel also wanted to do something outside the fitness realm. Ildeniz said, “It was a big learning process for us because we’re so worried about function and we’re almost never worried about how it looks — the bulkiness or the plastic is not important to us. Opening Ceremony challenged us to think how thin it should be or how heavy it should be and have the display on the inside.”
Asked how involved they were in the tech aspect of MICA, Lim said, “One-hundred percent. In the end, a woman has her phone. She’s not going to get rid of it, so let’s really think about what are the most important things to her, and that’s how we approached it. Obviously, the screen size is not as big as your phone, so would you be doing Instagram on that? Maybe not. We thought about what you’re really going to use it for.”
To illustrate, the event kicked off with a short film called “The Value of Time” by Jenna Elizabeth starring Rashida Jones as a multitasking entrepreneur. She checks her calendar on MICA to see that she only has 20 seconds to listen to an entitled Millennial ask for a raise; then she has another subordinate use MICA to source baklava last minute to impress a client.
After the presentation, five women who dwell in various trendy/fashion-y industries — Jenne Lombardo, DJ Kitty Cash, Jeanette Hayes, Lily Kwong and Nicole Winhoffer, trainer to Madonna and Stella McCartney — were on hand to demo the bracelet. The most useful elements seemed to be the calendar and time-telling capabilities. An attempt to search for nearby bakeries failed to load. Lim painted the scenario of MICA allowing for discreet access to messages from a select group of contacts when it’s inappropriate to have your phone out, namely a business meeting or dinner.
This will be the first wearable-tech product carried by Barneys, likewise Opening Ceremony. In the end, it seemed like all parties involved were there to get in on a sector of the industry that is red hot, even if the product might not catch fire. In the end, MICA is a pretty bracelet and there are always software updates. Plus, as Ildeniz put it, the goal was really to get to market before Christmas.