Adidas jumps into wearable computing, announces new $399 smartwatch at Mobilize

Athletic apparel company adidas is getting into the smartwatch business — and it offered the public a first peek today.

On stage at GigaOM’s Mobilize 2013 conference in San Francisco, Paul Gaudio, vice president of adidas Interactive, said the new smartwatch targets runners and will be available on Nov. 1 for $399.

It provides information on a runner’s location, speed and heart rate, as well as stores music. But a key feature is that it also provides personalized coaching. Runners can choose to receive coaching, based on their heart rate, through the watch face or headphones, via Bluetooth.

In the past year, much has been written about a new crop of smartwatches from companies like Pebble and Basis (as well as anticipated watches from Google (s GOOG) and Apple (s AAPL). But Gaudio said adidas’ intention wasn’t to compete with other consumer smartwatches, but to specifically serve runners.

“We didn’t incorporate anything we didn’t think a runner wouldn’t need or appreciate… we left certain things out on purpose,” he said. “We’re not trying to make a smartwatch, but the smartest running watch.”

Olof Schybergson, CEO of design company Fjord, which helped adidas design the watch, was with Gaudio on stage. When asked by GigaOM senior writer Katie Fehrenbacher how he imagines wearable technology for athletes will evolve, he said it will likely follow a less is more path.

Echoing Gaudio, he added that athletes are saying that they want fewer sensors and are already leaving the smartphone behind because it’s too bulky and not specific enough to their needs.

“For the most sports… my bet is on the wrist,” he said. “With the wrist, we already have this habit that has been there for ages… it’s not socially intrusive and it doesn’t introduce a lot of social awkwardness.”

When asked about the adoption of Google Glass, both panelists said that while it could be a valuable tool for specialists, they doubted its mainstream appeal.

“It’s a wonderful public lab that Google is providing to the world, but I don’ think it’s a mass market product, at least not yet,” said Schybergson. “It’s useful for specialists, [like] surgeons, the military and serious athletes, but not as a mass market thing because it’s too awkward.” (To learn more about design of wearables, check out our upcoming experience design conference RoadMap in San Francisco in November).

Check out the rest of our Mobilize 2013 live coverage here, and a video embed of the session follows below:

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A transcription of the video follows on the next page