At CES in January, Samsung will show off for the first time ever a trio of devices from its Creative Lab or C-Lab program — a startup incubator within the company dedicated to developing employees' experimental product ideas. The devices include WELT (a "smart belt" that tracks users' waist size and activity), TipTalk (a product that lets people listen to sound from smartwatches by simply "touching their finger to their ear"), and rink (a motion controller for virtual reality devices).
Employees can return to their jobs if their business fails
C-Lab is part of Samsung's efforts to foster creativity in its famously monolithic corporate structure. According to a report from Bloomberg on the program in November this year, C-Lab allows employees to take at least a year off from their normal jobs to pursue experimental projects. Particularly promising devices may be spun off into their own companies, and employees can reportedly return to their original position at Samsung if their business fails within five years.
(TipTalk is a watch strap that can be added to smartwatches and traditional watches, syncing with smartphones to transmit audio when the user touches their ear. Image credit: Samsung)
(WELT is a "smart belt" that sends data about users' activity and waist-size to a connected app. Image credit: Samsung)
"It’s true that instead of looking far into the future, every division is more engrossed in moneymaking," Jai Il Lee, head of the department that oversees C-Lab told Bloomberg. "We hope this project will prompt hidden geniuses to stop hiding and show themselves." Samsung says it has currently identified nine projects with "especially high potential" this year, including the three being showcased at CES. The company says that one of these, TipTalk, has already been launched as an independent company, while 70 C-Lab projects have already been "completed," and 40 of these are being "further developed."
But the ultimate aim of all this, of course, is to find products that can sell. Samsung says that WELT, TipTalk, and rink are all still "in the development process," but by showing them off to CES attendees — and to the press — it obviously thinks the ideas have some potential. We'll have to wait and see, though, whether or not these products are viable. TipTalk and rink look especially intriguing, but could be easily fail once tested in real life. How accurate is rink's motion tracking, for example, and how well does TipTalk transmit audio? We'll have to wait until CES to find out.