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Sunday June 8, 2014 3:42 pm

Exclusive: I used Microsoft’s Surface watch

Microsoft Surface Smart Watch

Yes, it’s true—Microsoft is about to get into the smartwatch game, and I got the opportunity to play with it. As we'd previously reported, Microsoft has filed a patent that details a smartwatch. However, often these patent filings aren’t exactly what we see companies end up releasing. So, let’s separate the cruft and get to the meat of the matter. A number of months ago I took a trip to New York where I came across someone who was testing the upcoming Microsoft wearable device. I saw it on their wrist and asked about it. They tried to explain that it was a random fitness wristband ordered from China at first, but eventually (with some prodding) gave me the scoop. Here is your exclusive first look at what Microsoft is planning for its first wearable smart device, what we are referring to as the Surface Watch:

  • As far as looks, the image above is a parody, but not far off. It has an elongated form factor, but isn't as comically large as what's in the image. It is much more akin to something like the Fitbit One or Samsung Galaxy Gear Fit in shape rather than taking on the shape of a traditional watch, like Pebble did, or like what Google showed off with Android Wear. What we saw had a flat display, while the inner portion that would rest against your skin was curved.
  • The icons are the flat style that Microsoft has been using on its other devices like Windows 8, Windows Phone, and Xbox One. That's what tipped me off in the first place.
  • Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy is how it interacts with the rest of the world
  • The flat glass display, and was definitely not high resolution. We hope that both of these change in the final product--a high-resolution curved display already exists on the Samsung Gear Fit, and the Microsoft device just didn't look as good.
  • The watch is packed with sensors. It has a heart rate monitor, accelerometer, gyroscope, GPS, and most interestingly, a galvanic skin response sensor all built-in. The galvanic skin response sensor is built into the watch band, while everything else is built into the unit itself.

Microsoft’s plan is to ensure that the Surface smartwatch works across different platforms. So far, we’ve learned that it’ll be compatible with iOS, Android, Windows Phone 8, Windows, OS X, and even Xbox One. Teams are hard at work on building software for each platform that will give users of each a full experience. In other words, Microsoft realizes that for this thing to compete, it cannot be a Windows/Windows Phone-only affair.

We’ve also been told that the biometric sensors might be used in unique ways. We mentioned Xbox One up there. We were told to imagine a scenario where a game might get streaming sensor data from the watch, and could recognize when you were, say, turning an imaginary wheel with a driving game where the Surface watch data would be used in conjunction with Kinect for even more precise play. Even more interesting? How about a survival-horror title that changes based on your pulse and how much you are sweating? Xbox fans, keep an eye on this one.

We have no hear a concrete launch date or price. Microsoft could announce the Surface watch this month, or it could wait until after E3. One thing is for sure, though—Microsoft is putting a lot of money into the Surface smartwatch project and is betting big that the features included will equate into many buyers.

It's not often that we post hardware or software leaks of our own, but it does happen on occasion:

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