Even today’s most beautifully designed smartphones will be disposed of in time. As the technology within becomes outdated, the whole device is discarded or donated and the collective conscious grabs hold of something shiny and new. Not only does SF design firm Monohm rethink that behavior with their new creation Runcible, they also challenge us to consider our patterns of mobile phone and wearable tech usage. With a stunning prototype being revealed at Mobile World Congress, the Runcible has the potential to change global perception of mobile expectations. Runcible is not a cellphone. It’s almost a cellphone, complete with connectivity and access and internet awareness, but it’s less invasive and that’s the point. Runcible is also not merely a concept, it’s a real-deal object created by industry veterans and we expect it to be available later this year.
With the Runcible, the team at Monohm has landed an optimal hand-feel. The completely round, palm-sized device (78mm in diameter) is based on the tactile time-tested experiences we’ve had with everything from skipping stones to pocket watches or compasses. We’ve seen circular screens on smart watches, but this is the first real standalone device to incorporate such a display—and body. Even the camera takes signature circular imagery—with zoom controls activated by rotating the very device (though the image on screen stays upright). There’s something about the smoothness of the physical experience that’s near lust-worthy and completely unique to date.
The density, tactility and form of Runcible promise to increase its sense of value. This is not a disposable gadget. It’s been designed to transcend the evolution of technology, last a lifetime and be passed down. With a one-third turn, the insides of the Runcible are accessible—to be replaced, repaired or updated. The shell remains and the inside advances with the rest of the tech world. To further encourage this, the case has been composed of a myriad of high-end options; be that beautiful walnut or woven bamboo and more. This furthers the tactile personal connection. While I haven’t touched a Runcible yet, I know its size, weight and shape and am confident Monhom has found a golden triangle—at least for my average-sized hands.
We are creating an heirloom for the future.
The operating system for the Runcible is based on Firefox OS. This was an informed move for a few reasons. Firefox OS allows for open framework development. Anyone can create for the Runcible. In fact, anyone who creates for connected devices and connected services should be able to develop easily for the Runcible. Monohm believes in the open web concept, and using that as a common denominator to draw in users and a hope for what they call their “100 year plan.” The Runcible will be able to seek out other connected devices and offer quick and easy pairing, if that’s what its user wants.
Through the ease of Firefox OS, and with guidance from the team at Mozilla, Runcible’s three creators were able to design and develop the software, as well as the hardware, in under a year—and produce a working prototype. That said, this isn’t your ordinary start-up and the accolades of the three core team members at Monohm demonstrate their pedigree and tenure.
This is us blowing up the rectangle.
Aubrey Anderson, founder and CEO, has founded and spearheaded many digital start-ups, ranging from content boutiques to online activations. George Arriola, founder, President and CPO, carries experience from the wearable hardware and platform world, and has also founded and overseen a design boutique agency. Jason Proctor, founder and CTO, a software engineer and framework architect also founded a tech company. The three are united by time spent working at Apple.
While prototyping the software on an array of dead phones kept by Mozilla, they were able to experience a life lead with just Runcible connectivity. At the same time, they were utilizing block mocks to seek out the right ergonomic form. Nine months were dedicated to refining a realistic manufacturing size, based on industrial design as well as the mechanical and electrical engineering requirements of the innards—including a battery that lasts more than a day. All in, only one year has been spent on Rubcible so far—a highly accelerated design and development timeline for any device, let alone one from a brand new technology company.
The throughline, and the attributes the device grants, however, is built upon being less available—a rather novel concept in a stimulation-obsessed culture. According to Arriola, “This is us blowing up the rectangle and distilling it down to its core elements and enabling and forcing you to have more social interaction and be more engaged with those that you care about and love, that are nearby.”
It’s the idea of pulling it toward you, rather than it pulling you.
“We are creating an heirloom for the future,” he continues. The category-crossing device “has connectivity in there when you need it, but it’s the idea of pulling it toward you, rather than it pulling you.” It minimizes distraction despite the LTE, WiFi and Bluetooth connection. It doesn’t beep, alert or interrupt.
As for features though, Monohm is keeping quiet on just about everything, but there is simple peer to peer contextual IoT / WoT connectivity, without the need for downloading software, among many other hinted-at options. The camera shoots round photos and videos, built atop Lite.ly. The UI always appears right-side up upon waking. And a physical sensor within can activate remote controls for sound adjustment or even lights. All of this is supported by a USB Type C port, for hardware and accessories.
Runcible will launch in partnership with Japan’s KDDI carrier as part of their Design Series, but the device will be sold completely unlocked. That is, after it’s completed the mass manufacturing process. As chips are being finalized along with relationships with other carriers, the Runcible hopes to become a global product with universal impact. It is unlike anything out there thus far, and the ideas it proposes are fascinating. Couple that with the fact that it’s something users will want to hold and protect and maybe even update, and this has the potential to make a tremendous impact.
Click through the slideshow at the top of the page for additional images of the Runcible and its development.
Images courtesy of Runcible