January 5, 2017 / 5:09 PM / 9 months ago

Niantic Labs taps wearable startup to boost popular Ingress game

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian wearable technology startup Mighty Cast unveiled a programmable wristband on Thursday that Pokemon Go developer Niantic Inc is using to add features to its augmented reality online game Ingress.

The small Montreal-based company is hoping the hackable aspect of its Nex Evolution device will set it apart from the likes of Fitbit Inc’s (FIT.N) fitness-focused band and Apple Inc’s (AAPL.O) Apple Watch.

“If you want to read emails on your wrist then we’re not the band for you,” Chief Executive Adam Adelman said in a phone interview. “Ours is much more geared for the maker generation,” he said, referring to younger people who like to tinker with gadgets.

The Nex Evolution, an update of a model the company never brought to market, features five buttons called “mods” but no screen. It pairs via Bluetooth to Apple and Android-based devices and costs $79.

Tapping or pressing the mods can open garage doors, control a camera or music player, or send preset messages to contacts. Mods can also light up or vibrate to notify a user when a favorite sporting team scores or a friend is nearby, for example.

Ingress, a game similar to Pokeman Go, relies on players moving between real-world locations to earn points. The device allows millions of Ingress players worldwide to quickly share their whereabouts, receive team updates and unlock secret content.

Pokemon Go, which is not available on the Nex Evolution wristband, launched on the Apple Watch last month.

Adelman said Mighty Cast will announce several more confirmed partnerships with gaming companies in coming months and is in talks to develop applications for other devices.

The company has raised $4.5 million, which Adelman said would cover the initial launch, and is talking to strategic investors and venture capital funds about additional cash this year.

IDC in June forecast that shipments of wearable technology, led by watches and wristbands, will grow 20 percent a year to more than 200 million units by 2020.

Reporting by Alastair Sharp; Editing by Richard Chang

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