Pixel Watch? Google Looks Like It's Cooking Up a Smartwatch of Its Own

Could we see a Pixel Watch in the future?

Google plans to spend $40 million to acquire secretive smartwatch technology that could jumpstart its own futuristic timepiece. Fossil Group, the fashion company best known for its watches, announced Thursday that it would be selling “intellectual property related to a smartwatch technology” to the tech giant. It seems like a relatively small leap to interpret the acquisition as a sign that some form of Google Watch — perhaps a Pixel Watch — could be underway.

The deal is expected to close at the end of January. Once complete, an undisclosed number of employees from Fossil’s research and development department will join Google. This means Wear OS, a division that creates software for primarily smartwatches, will gain a dedicated hardware team.

The tech being exchanged was described by Fossil’s EVP of chief strategy Greg McKelvey as a “new product innovation that’s not yet hit the market,” in a Thursday report by Wareable. Neither side has disclosed what it could be, but seeing as Google has never released its own smartwatch hardware this could be the jumping board it uses to dive into the wearables market.

fossil hybrid smartwatch
Fossil's hybrid smartwatches combine activity tracking with the style of an analog watch.

Fossil is best known for its hybrid smartwatches. These are products that track your steps and send you notifications but still look like an analog watch, instead of coming with a touchscreen like the Apple Watch. It’s possible Fossil made a breakthrough in its hybrid design that Google wanted to make its own with Wear OS.

The wearable software platform, originally named Android Wear, was launched in 2014 and has only ever provided the operating system for other wearables. Partners like Fossil, Misfit, and LG provide the the watch and Google makes it smart. But with this acquisition, the Mountain View is signaling that it could finally be ready to compete with other device-makers in the space.

It’s easy to see why Google smells an opportunity. Apple announced that its wearable tech, including the Apple Watch, brought in $10 billion of revenue over a year, and as of late last year was the second most popular wearable brand in the world, according to the International Data Corporation. Apple has already successfully started to look to what will sustain smart hardware businesses post smartphone.

Google's Project Soli could be exactly what a hybrid smartwatch needs.

Google’s partial Fossil acquisition comes weeks after the U.S. Federal Communications Commission granted the company permission to test its motion-sensing system, Project Soli. The tech uses a tiny radar array inside of a quarter-sized chip to precisely detect hand gestures so users could, say, control the brightness of their smartwatch by rubbing their fingers together. In fact, Wear OS devices already come with gesture control features which could be expanded thanks to this new approval.

Fossil-style smartwatches and Project Soli could be a perfect match. Google’s radar technology is specifically meant to replace touchscreen interactions, while hybrid watches don’t heavily rely on displays. The potential Pixel Watch could be one of the most ambitious wearable projects to date, but it’ll remain shrouded in mystery for now.