Although my grandmother says, "Baby monitor? Why would you want to hear the baby cry?", most parents these days buy a baby monitor before their kid is out of utero. Baby monitors run the gamut from audio-only to audio-plus-video to a monitor for temperature and humidity in baby's room, or all of the above.
Moneual, normally known for making vacuum cleaners, brought its Babble and Smart Wristband prototypes to 2014 International CES. Innovating on the parent-end of the monitor, Moneual offers a quieter way to listen for baby. Instead of transmitting audio or video, parents wear a wristband that vibrates and lights up when baby needs attention. We think this subtle shift in the way baby's needs are communicated has enormous potential, especially in a few specific use cases.
We were able to take a closer look at the Babble and Smart Wristband on the show floor.
Design & Features
The Babble is a tall, matryoshka-shaped tower whose top has the ability to light up in varying colors. The Babble can also play audio to help soothe baby. It is controlled by an app on a smartphone (the demo was running on an Android device), and you can change the color and type of light, play any audio from your smartphone through the Babble into baby's room, and view stats like battery life. In addition, the app keeps a history of baby's crying with date, time, duration, and type of cry. It also keeps track of the temperature and humidity in baby's room.
The Babble and the app connect via bluetooth with the Smart Wristband, a round disk with a slightly stretchy band. The Wristband vibrates when baby starts to cry, with a changing intensity that matches the baby. In addition, three LEDs blink to tell parents what baby needs—the lights make an upward-facing arrow when baby is hungry, a righthand arrow when baby is sleepy. The monitor also distinguishes when baby is stressed or in discomfort. The demo we saw used a variety of recorded baby cries to show off this technology, and we were impressed with the way each cry sounded different, and very close to what we would also interpret as hungry, sleepy, etc.
The Babble and Smart Wristband were originally designed for hearing-impaired parents, but we can imagine this monitor as a great alternative to carrying around either a smartphone or the bulkier parent-end of a more traditional monitor. For parents working from home, the vibration and light combo on the Smart Wristband would make sure you were aware of baby's needs without interrupting a conference call. For a parent on-the-go around the house during naptime, you can keep the monitor with you hands-free without the need for pockets. The monitor has a range of 120 feet, giving the wearer plenty of room to move around the house while maintaining a connection to baby.
Our main issue with the current design is the battery situation on both the Wristband and the Babble tower. The Babble tower has a battery life of just eight hours, the wristband just ten. Even if your child naps just an hour a day, you would need to deal with batteries at least once a week. Another concern is the comfort of the Wristband—the one we tried on at CES was very tight (even for a thin-wristed tester) and pulled at our skin. The actual disk was bulkier than we would have liked too. It was also challenging to clip on one-handed, though we think we'd get the hang of it within a day or two.
The Babble and Smart Wristband still have a ways to go before their designs are finalized and production begins. At the moment, they are being slated for release toward the end of 2014, though the date is fluid. We are very excited about the innovation behind the Babble and Smart Wristband technology and are looking forward to watching these products develop over the next year.