Skip to main content

Technology Montreal startup Mighty Cast hopes it has found its charm bracelet with Nex Evolution

On Thursday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Mighty Cast will unveil a sales-ready, programmable wristband called Nex Evolution (not pictured) and announce a partnership with Google spinoff Niantic Labs that could cement its prospects for years to come.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Adam Adelman was once a new-media and technology analyst, scrutinizing the latest trends for hedge funds and investment banks. Now, he's betting his own startup won't find itself in tech's unforgiving dustbin.

His company is Montreal-based Mighty Cast, a four-year-old firm that develops wearable technology and software platforms. On Thursday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, it will unveil a sales-ready, programmable wristband called Nex Evolution and announce a partnership with Google spinoff Niantic Labs that could cement its prospects for years to come.

"We're seeing a huge interest from augmented-reality companies that want to [improve their offering] through wearables," Mr. Adelman said, adding the Ingress agreement is the first of several gaming deals Mighty Cast will make public over the next several weeks.

Story continues below advertisement

The company is entering a wearables market that's generally on the rise, although success continues to prove elusive for some manufacturers. Basic wearables such as Fitbit fitness trackers have proven their mass appeal, but more expensive and complex devices such as Apple Inc.'s smartwatches continue to trail initial sales expectations. Mr. Adelman's gamble is that his $79 (U.S.) wristband will appeal to a range of consumers at a price that won't break the bank.

"Smart wearables [including smartwatches] have been down in recent quarters but clearly not out," said Ramon Llamas, a specialist on wearables with technology market-intelligence firm IDC. "As users' tastes change, so will their needs. That's the opportunity for smart wearables with multifunctionality and third-party applications, both for consumers and business users."

Nex Evolution is a light wristband with five touch-sensitive buttons called "mods" that communicate through vibration and light patterns. Each mod can be programmed and reprogrammed to carry out potentially thousands of functions such as controlling your Spotify music, turn on your coffee maker or alerting you every time a friend is nearby. It also tracks your steps, calories and distance as if it were a fitness band.

The idea is to give buyers a "blank canvass on their wrist" where they can create their own experience rather than relying on an Apple or Fitbit to create it for them, Mr. Adelman said. He said current wearables amount to either health bands or smartwatches, which are little more than glorified cellphones on your wrist. "We haven't seen anyone do anything, in our opinion, very disruptive or creative," he said. He believes Nex band will change that.

The deal with Niantic, publisher of Pokemon Go, will see Mighty Cast supply an accessory band for Niantic's other popular augmented-reality mobile game, Ingress. The wristband will have all the same functionality as a regular Nex Evolution band with additional programming for Ingress players, giving them an enhanced gaming experience.

Making a wearable band wasn't Mr. Adelman's original plan. After developing some expertise as media-content producers, he and his wife first pitched focus groups on the idea of a science-fiction fantasy story that involved a group of teens and a magical charm bracelet. Focus group participants liked the story, but they liked the bracelet even more and wondered if it could be brought to life. And so Mighty Cast was born.

The company developed a beta version of the Nex band, which received a "Reader's Choice Award" for offbeat product of the year in 2013 from consumer electronics Web magazine Engadget as well as a CES innovation award. It then refined the China-made band to make it adjustable and less bulky.

Story continues below advertisement

The biggest thing Mighty's team learned through testing, however, was it didn't need to find the perfect software application to marry to its device. It didn't need to discover the one key that would keep buyers interested in the band long after they purchased it. In Mighty's mind, that key doesn't exist.

"We were looking for the killer app," Mr. Adelman said. "And what we discovered is that there's no killer app."

Funding to get this far has come from a mix of sources, including money raised from the sale of Mr. Adelman's previous business and backing from venture investor Leo Capital Holdings. The company has also tapped government tax-rebate programs.

Still, the odds remain stacked against Mighty Cast. Rivals such as Samsung and Microsoft are struggling to create popular and accomplished wearable products after years of trial and error. How far a Montreal startup of 12 employees can push the envelope, whether it can really turn a fictional charm bracelet into a top-selling tech gadget, remains to be seen.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Tickers mentioned in this story
Unchecking box will stop auto data updates
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter