The folks at BLOCKS unveiled a concept for a modular smartwatch in 2014, launched a crowdfunding campaign a year and a half later, and eventually raised more than $1.6 million from more than 5-thousand backers.
But according to the latest update on the BLOCKS Kickstarter campaign, the team’s dream of a modular smartwatch platform is officially dead. After running out of money, the company’s remaining assets will be liquidated.
It’s not surprising to see an ambitious crowdfunded hardware project end in failure. BLOCKS never struck me as an outright scam so much as a project from inexperienced developers who may have underestimated the amount of work that would go into making a commercially viable product based on the original concept.
I did get a chance to check out a prototype of the BLOCKS system in 2018, including a core smartwatch and a series of modules that could be strung together to make a wrist strap. Each module could add functionality to the watch, with modules including:
- Heart rate monitor
- GPS receiver
- Environment sensor
- LED flashlight
- Programmable smart button
The idea was that customers would be able to choose just the features they wanted. Don’t need GPS in your smartwatch, but want extra-long battery life? Then buy a bunch of battery modules.
Since the modules were also designed to be swappable, you could buy the full set, but leave modules at home if you didn’t anticipate needing them.
But not only was the idea of building a modular hardware system ambitious, but the BLOCKS team also had to develop custom software because none of the existing offerings would support the company’s swappable components. So BLOCKS developed its own Android-based operating system, which it likely presented its own challenges (and might have made the watch a little less attractive to potential customers).
Last year the company announced to backers that after spending $2.8 million, the company was looking for new revenue sources. It appears that never panned out.