Since it first burst onto the hip couture scene, the cellular telephone, or “cell phone,” or the minimalist’s “cell,” has both driven communication advancements and provoked a wide gamut of controversy. The problem, my friends, lies not in potential brain tumors and avoidable car accidents, but in the awkward social situations cell phones can induce. Until these predicaments are resolved, friendships will continue to be lost and countless embarrassed people will still squirm around in their seats.

But researchers at Carnegie Mellon are curbing the wave of humiliation that comes with a quiet calculus lecture, 26 attentive students, and one sudden burst of a “CRAAAAZY LAAAAADIESSSS” ringtone. Enter the eWatch, a device capable of telling the time — and much more!

Carnegie Mellon researchers are in the early stages of creating the eWatch, a wrist-clock with enough tricks to make any Rolex-toting executive salivate like Pavlov’s dog. Project advisor Asim Smailagic leads the effort, which is a collaboration between the ECE department, CS department, and industrial design. First tested in August 2004 and publicized on National Public Radio last week, the eWatch can not only tell you if you’re late for that 3 o’clock dentist appointment, it’ll remind you that it’s scheduled for that day. And let’s say you’re late for that appointment and you’re running really fast and BAM! you collide with a car — never fear! The eWatch has already notified the authorities of the accident. So it saves lives. It’s a TV remote, too.

The eWatch and your cell phone are on the same team. They work together, and they never fight about the rules. The eWatch is like the coach with a headset on the sidelines, surveying the whole field. The eWatch can detect if you are in a darkened room, such as a photo lab, movie theater, or one of those weird places where the sun never rises.

Taking this information, the eWatch signals your cell phone not to ring. This gets a little more complicated than Steve Martin telling you to turn off your cell phone before you sit down for Nanny McPhee. The eWatch even detects where you are based on audio levels and ambient light, letting your cell phone know if you are in the confessional or just listening to “CRAAAAZY LAAAAADIESSSS.”

This eWatch is going to be big news for the geriatric scene. They’ve been hatin’ on the cell phone since it was the size of a briefcase and could only fit in the trunk of a car. Cell phone use has increased 10-fold in the last 10 years, a fact best verified by spending 15 minutes in line at Giant Eagle. Brain cancer is on the rise, too, but that’s a minor detail.

Who hasn’t longed for the days of yore when candlelight and sticks made for good entertainment, when a friendly movie was interrupted not by Beyoncé but by the mooing of cows out in the pasture?

So if you’re sitting in a movie and your second cousin just has to tell you all about last night’s junior prom, the eWatch will tell you nearly everything but the color of her dress. The device signals to the user with visual or tactile messages. Important e-mails and voice messages can be shown in the same way.

Perfect, right? For the gadget-forward, yes. The fashion-forward? Eh, not so much. Though it’s offered in various colors (an oatmeal beige and a blinding blue, among others), the eWatch fits like wearing a stack of Pogs on your wrist drawn together by a thin strip of velcro. The website photos showing the eWatch without the plastic covering looks like what you’d expect from the most complicated time-keep that doesn’t chime — a mini circuit board.

Can we expect to see Angelina Jolie sporting an eWatch on the way to her next yoga session? Your guess is as good as my sweet Joy to the World ringtone — still not changed since Christmas 2004. How nice now that I don’t have to share the Good News with the rest of the darkened theater.