How Cool

By Hannah Wallace December 31, 2003

Spectrum Research's Wristcom goes Hollywood.

Who's that hot new Hollywood babe on Matthew McConaughey's arm in the upcoming action adventure film, Sahara? It's WristCom, a sports watch that acts like a walkie-talkie. And it's made right here in Sarasota by consumer electronics developer Spectrum Research.

Like secret agents in a James Bond movie, WristCom wearers synchronize their watches and, voila, they can communicate instantly and clearly-to their children at the mall, to their employees on construction sites, to their colleagues at trade shows, on golf courses or in hotels. "It's like having an open cell phone on your wrist," says Spectrum's Jan Thomas.

Thomas made the Hollywood connection last August when she called a vice president of licensing at Paramount Pictures about another product. She was asking about the licensing rights to the Star Trek communicator-that little button Capt. Jean-Luc Picard and crew press on their chest insignia to talk to their shipmates. Spectrum wanted to develop a real communicator, using the Star Trek image and name and the WristCom computer chip. But when the Paramount exec heard about WristCom, she had a better idea: making WristCom the product for McConaughey's gadget-loving character Dirk Pitt.

"My jaw dropped," Thomas says. Now Spectrum is custom designing a WristCom for Sahara, which should premiere during the 2004 holiday season. Spectrum gets to market a product used by a movie star and Paramount gets a percentage of the profits. This marketing edge is especially important since wearable walkie-talkies are hot: Sales of two-way radios (eight million in 2002) have increased 60 percent since 2000.

The WristCom has the sound quality of a cell phone, says Thomas, and you don't have to hold it up to your ear to hear it. It allows voice to be transmitted for a distance of two miles; five people can connect at once.

Spectrum Research also makes an anti-telemarketing device and an affordable audio enhancement product that connects to the TV, computer or DVD player for near theater-quality sound. And it's marketing a wireless game controller so your teen-age son and his four buddies can play video games without all the wires. WristCom is its first product to go Hollywood.

Retailing "somewhere in the $30s," says Thomas, WristCom should be in stores should be in stores this spring.


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