BARCELONA, Spain — It seems there’s no end to the number of dumb, old-school tools that can be made more intelligent. While some smart devices seem unnecessary or superfluous, Bagel Labs’ Smart Tape Measure isn’t one of them.
Transforming a humble, single-purpose tool into a multi-faceted machine, this $50 smart tape measure has the ability to store every measurement it takes and upload them to your phone for easy viewing.
Like all tape measures, it has a claw shaped hook that’s attached to a reel, which can be extended to measure distance. However, the Smart Tape Measure uses a simple string instead of flexible metal, which makes the package significantly lighter than the traditional tool. Since there aren’t any markings on the string itself, you must check your measurements by looking at the LCD screen built-into the top of the device.
The one potential downside to the Smart Tape is that, since it requires electricity to power its screen and sensors, your measuring tool could end up being temporarily missing in action. However, Bagel Labs says its device should last for about 800 measurements, or about 10 hours, before you need to recharge it via micro USB.
But if that’s all it did, the Smart Tape would have a hard time competing against dumb tape measures that cost a fifth of its price. Bagel Labs also includes a scroll wheel measuring device to easily record the length of odd-shaped objects, and an ultra-sonic remote measuring sensor to size up hard to reach places, like say a corner between the ceiling and a wall.
Then, when you’re finished measuring everything in sight, you can simply read back the measurements out loud, and the Smart Tape will use voice recognition software to digitize the information and send it to your smartphone via Bagel Labs' app (Android or iOS).
At Mobile World Congress 2016, I got a chance to see the Smart Tape in action, and while the demo unit the company had working at their booth wasn't nearly as pretty as the retail mockup it also had on display, everything worked exactly as advertised. However, there are a couple things that could use additional polishing.
The Smart Tape seemed to only measure in increments of a tenth of an inch or centimeter, which may not be accurate enough for some. The claw on the end of the string doesn’t quite match up to what you’d get on a normal tape measure. That’s because a normal tape measure usually features a large cut out that you can use to hang the claw on a nail or screw while you hold the tape measure and walk away to get a reading. But the claw on the Smart Tape only has a tiny slot, barely large enough to latch onto anything much thicker than a paperclip.
That said, the creators of the Smart Tape Measure said they are still in the process of refining its design, and said they would definitely think about changing up the shape of the claw.
I think the best part about the Smart Tape is the potential it has to replace 5, 10 or even 15 tools that builders often carry with a single, multi-function item. If the company built in a laser level, or maybe even an infrared sensor and stud finder as well, the Smart Tape could become the Swiss Army Knife of construction.
Like the change to the claw, Bagel Labs says these features are also under consideration, but probably won’t be implemented on the first production run. The Smart Tape is set to launch on Kickstarter in June with actual devices set to ship in October.
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Sam is a Senior Writer at Engadget and previously worked at Gizmodo as a Senior Reporter. Before that, he worked at Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag as a Staff Writer and Senior Product Review Analyst, overseeing benchmarks and testing for countless product reviews. He was also an archery instructor and a penguin trainer too (really).