Basheer Tome


Analog watch with a digital heart

Cardinal is a hybrid-analog digital smart watch with physical hands that move independently above a digital screen below. This refined and easier to read display connects you to your body and your environment, not your phone.

Cardinal: Trailer

Lifestyle and walkthrough of using Cardinal.


Most smartwatches serve only as flashy firehoses of notifications.

Disconnects you from the environment
By featuring always-on, always beeping displays, you and your friends nearby are constantly pulled away from real life to take a call or nosedive into a stream of notifications from Facebook, Instagram, and more.
Not context aware
Except when briefly showing notifications or incoming calls, the screens always return to showing a skeumorphic view of the time or a simple digital clock without any consideration to your current context of activity or movement.
Rely on phone & cloud
By using notification-first and app-centric UI, today's smartwatches create an unavoidable reliance on both the cloud as well as what's happening locally on your phone. It's a voluntary leash to make sure it can always get your attention.

Cardinal marries analog hands with a high contrast OLED screen.

Connects you to your body
The core functionality revolves around helping you keep track of where you are and how long you've been doing things. From helping you understand how long you've been swimming, to showing a map of where you are now.
Ambient, contextual interface
Both the display and the hands, together, change with context. Walking or running? The display automatically shows how long you've been doing it. Flicking your wrist will always the show time again.
Notification-free, tether-free
No notifications. No calls. No numbers or steps or calories. No biometrics. No app. The focus is completely on where you are and what you're doing. Stay present while Cardinal keeps track of what you're bad at, time.

interactive: click on the buttons and on the screen

Cardinal focuses on 3 key parts of your day: when, what, & where.

View the time with an overlaid digital alarm hand or hand from another timezone. See the current date with the hands pointing at the days. Start a stopwatch or set a timer to countdown with the screen filling in the pie.
See how long you've been walking, swimming, or even just sitting. This empowers you, instead of a blunt algorithm, to use it as encouragement to continue your uninterrupted work session or get up and exercise.
See a nearby map with the hands pointing towards your heading. Hop on a train and view your current, previous, and next stops. Have the hands snap towards north in compass mode. Or view today and tomorrow's weather.

Since they're the core of the experience, I built an interactive prototype to quickly explore and iterate on the interactions. It's all done in javascript & canvas on the web to keep things simple, fast, platform-agnostic, and easy to share with others. While you can play with it above, it works best when viewed on a mobile phone so head over to the Cardinal test page.

On mobile, I've hooked into the sensors to make twisting the bezel set timers, viewing the compass use the realtime magnetometer, and map mode react to rotation. On mobile, it also appears at 1:1 scale to help tune & design at the correct information density. You can take a look at the code itself as well on Github.

To iterate on the physical form in order to refine the silhouette and understand the correct scale, I went through a series of 3d-printed prototypes and a variety of strap materials and mechanisms.

I also used an ample amount of sketching to hash out the early concepts for both the interactions as well as the form.

Once I had the concepts fleshed out and before I jumped into the interactive mockups you saw above, I translated those sketches into static wireframes in Illustrator. I was able to directly lift a lot of those vector files and use right in the canvas prototype.

In order to avoid having to recreate and rebuild all the same animations, screens, etc. in various filmmaking programs for the nicer renders & videos, I created a tweaked version of the interactive web app. This split the hands, screen, and bezel into color channels that I could screen record & then separate & modify in After Effects and in Cinema 4D. All of which I could streamline en-masse through a series of swappable, nested compositions.

Cardinal is a smarter, context aware interface without the noise of notifications, calls, or step counts.

There have been dozens of smartwatches before that have combined these two, but none of them were able to let go of the idea that the hands have to always show the time. By taking a page from the purely digital watches who utilize their entire surface to display information, we set the physical hands free to be your primary display again.