Review: Pix—The Backpack That Communicates
A backpack is a backpack is a backpack unless its a Pix Backpack. Don’t get me wrong, I love evaluating backpacks. Comparing pocket range and access, special features, the durability of the material and the fit of the straps. But the Pix back is something very different.
In its inert state, the $259 Pix Backpack holds stuff. It comes with pockets for tablets and documents, for chargers and pens and battery packs. Back pockets hold up to a 15-inch notebook and personal stuff, like money and passports. To be expected. Not over-engineered. A big main opening with pockets on both sides—and the pockets in the back.
But put in a battery pack and connect it to the coiled USB cable and the Pix Backpack stops being inert. It comes alive.
The Pix Backpack essentially becomes a wearable 8-bit 16×20 resolution display that rides on your back.
Pix Backpack video from CES 2020
How it works
There is a USB cable that hangs out at the bottom of the Pic Backpack. Hook it up to any USB battery power source of 10,000 mAh or more, and the display comes alive. That capacity will drive it for 6 hours. More battery, more entertainment.
Remember, you’re only dealing with 16×20, but the color pallet extends to 16.5 million colors. The app includes a number of emojis, signs and even GIFs. Yes, the display includes support for animation. Roiling flames, blinking smilies and rockets that ignite and fly off—and a whole lot more. And you can make your own with a bit of effort. Static images are nice, but the power of Pix really shows up in the animation, which can, at times, mesmerize.
The Pix Backpack Market with images, animation, widgets, and games
But animation is a bit of an understatement. The app also drops a couple of games onto what is sure to be a conversation piece carry-on. Yep, place the backpack opposite you at your favorite Comic-Con or CES cafe and watch people watch you as you play a Tetris like experience on your backpack.
Don’t like the canned array of images and animations, spin your own images and animations dot-by-dot in the app.
Oh, and one more thing: widgets. Display the time, set a timer, even turn the display into a flashlight!
A How it Works video from Pix
What’s it good for?
Getting attention. People will react. They will react in different ways depending on what the display displays. But they will react.
The Pix Backpack can also serve as a message platform by displaying STOP, BUY or HELP or some other phrase. It won’t be missed, even at night. The images are bright (and the intensity can be controlled). If you can fit your message in the 16×20 grid, people will receive it. Too bad hitchhikers didn’t have this kind of tech in the 1960s. Today, of course, it can be the beacon to ensure you connect with the right Lyft or Uber driver.
Pix Backpack: What could be better?
The backpack does its job as a backpack. Sure, it could be made of heavier material in places or include a chest strap for stability or an external water bottle pocket or some places to attach doodads and thingamajigs on the front or side. The only real physical enhancement I would like to see is evidence of heavier stitching where the straps meet the backpack. Those seams may last forever, but I’m not sure I’m feeling it.
The other area of improvement comes in the app. It could use a more intuitive user interface for drawing and saving. I’d also like to have a basic template to load into another app. Create on the Mac or PC and load into a sharing environment (imports of 16×20 images or gifs are supported in the app, but with no instruction or recommendations for which apps to use).
Although the app says “market” it doesn’t include a way for people to join the market. A publishing and sharing service would drive third-party graphics sharing.
Again, yes, it’s only 16×20 but it still offers plenty of space for creativity. Good tools will lead to more creative expressions, especially in animations that prove painful to hand code.
I like the Pix Backpack as a backpack, but I like it more as a conversation starter. Until everyone in the world has one, and that may come before automated cars, you will likely have a unique tool for spurring dialog with fellow travelers, conference attendees, and colleagues. Use it. Have fun. That’s what the Pix Backpack was ultimately designed for. Just having fun (and protecting your stuff and making it easier to carry, etc. etc. etc.). Just enjoy!
Read more Serious Insights backpack related posts here.