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Meet reqallable, the smartwatch app that rescues you from notifications overload

Jon Phillips | Feb. 3, 2014
Smartwatches usually treat notifications with blunt-force indiscretion. It's an all or nothing affair. You either turn off notifications entirely, letting your wrist wear go quiet, or you leave notifications on, and let the watch respond to all incoming signals with a buzz or a chime.

But then there's also the concept of "temporary importance." During his demo of the smartwatch app, Vemuri showed me how I, a virtual stranger, was briefly elevated to VIP status.

"Because you're on my calendar for this meeting, your importance is elevated. That's relevant because if you were to message me today, I'd want that to come to my attention," Vemuri says. "But your importance will decrease tomorrow unless we have a continuing email exchange. We're looking at the calendar, the contact list. We're looking at the call log. All that gives an indication of who is important and who is not."

The system is also sensitive to your location and daily activities. It can determine that you're driving by sensing rapidly changing geolocation, and then suppress distracting notifications accordingly. Likewise, it can determine when you're sleeping by looking at your phone's idle times, as well as the time of day.

And then there's sensitivity to social etiquette. The reqallable system can dip into your calendar, and suppress notifications from all but the most "important" people so you're not bothered during a critical business meeting. Says Vemuri: "The ultimate goal is to help modulate what we have in these devices, so that phone knows, Right now, this is not a good time for an interruption.' It knows that I'm busy. But when I leave here, it might buzz me and tell me, These are the things that happened while I was busy.'"

Why read 500 words when 50 words will do?
Even if perfectly filtered notifications don't realize your smartwatch dreams, you might still appreciate reqallable's ability to parse long email messages, and then push heavily edited versions that surface only the most attention-worthy details to your smartwatch. "We have an algorithm that goes through the message sentence by sentence, looking for typical phrases that indicate some type of response is needed, or that there's some type of important communication going on," Vemuri says.

During his app demo, Vemuri showed me a long, multi-paragraph message on his phone, and then pivoted to the smartwatch app, which reduced that very same email to three critical action points: "Please let me know if the above description is OK," "Are you available to meet?" and, "Please let me know some days that work for you."

Based on what I saw, the machine intelligence looks pretty incredible. And the reqallable smartwatch app even lets you quickly reply to these email snippets with pre-formatted responses like "This is fine," "Please call," or "Let's meet." It's a convenience feature that would be useful in a lot of Sony Smartwatch apps.

Now, about Sony's smartwatch platform, which graduated to Smartwatch 2 hardware late last year: Why did reQall choose Sony's technology instead of the much more ballyhooed (though not necessarily deserving) Samsung Galaxy Gear? "To be frank, Sony's APIs are most mature," Vemuri says.


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