We first met the folks from Orion Labs last year, when they debuted a puck-like push-to-talk device. The walkie-talkie style interface was interesting, but the plastic industrial design was pretty utilitarian. A more fashion-oriented version called Ruby didn’t seem to get much traction, as it put a technology company too far into the accessories business — a tough place to be.
Orion’s back with an Onyx version that splits the difference between last year’s two models. The new Onyx is much smaller and lighter — 2 inches in diameter and a little more than an ounce — is now made of metal and is generally more attractive. The company has thoroughly updated its electronics, too: better voice recognition, Bluetooth LE, and longer battery life. And because Onyx uses your phone as a transmission medium, the Orion app can even tell you where your team members are.
The idea of using a wearable device to talk casually to another person team without needing to fish out a phone or having to set up a conference call remains a good one. But the underlying play of the Onyx is even more interesting: a discreet input device to a smart home rig. Imagine being able to talk to your Amazon Echo without being in the same room, or even the same building. Pop an eSIM in, and even the phone becomes unnecessary.
The bad news: the new version is more expensive. Introductory pricing is $130 for one, $250 for two, and $1300 for 12. Regular pricing is $150 for one, $280 for two and $1600 for 12. Preorders now, shipping soon.