TAIPEI (Reuters Life!) - Airbags save lives on the road, and a Taiwanese inventor who has embedded one in a wristwatch hopes they will do the same in the water.
Tseng Tze-kui, a water sports enthusiast for more than three decades, came up with the idea of the inflatable bag in a watch five years ago as a lightweight alternative to lifejackets.
Despite drowning statistics, many people avoid wearing lifejackets because they are considered too cumbersome, he said.
"Every year, people drown at the seashore or in creeks. Of course, a lifejacket is the safest protection but there are still many children who are unwilling to wear them," he said.
"We thought about creating a simple, lightweight life-saving gadget and hope to prevent these accidents from happening again in the future," Tseng said.
Tseng's invention is called Fixblessing and retails for about $80 at major fishing and sports accessory stores in Taiwan. It's also on sale in Singapore.
The device displays time like a normal watch, and has a small bottle of carbon dioxide attached to the wrist piece which, when triggered, inflates the airbag.
The watch is ideal for divers who need to go down to the sea bottom and need protection, Tseng said.
While some watersports fans agreed that lifejackets can be fiddly, others were worried that wearers of the watch would not be able to trigger it fast enough in an emergency.
"Sometimes people don't think or act that fast to pull the handle, then it's too late," said 24-year-old Taiwan beachgoer Huang Wen-yu. "A life jacket stays with you when it's dangerous."
Writing by Miral Fahmy, editing by Ralph Jennings