Bringing you details on a new wearable fitness device or smartwatch from the CES 2014 floor is already standard fare. But when that device comes from a company known for PC gaming peripherals and laptops like the Razer Blade, its worthy casting a curious eye toward. Part smartwatch, part activity-tracking wristband, this is the Razer Nabu.
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Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan calls the Nabu a “smartband,” explaining that “smart watches in their current form are too bulky and fitness trackers are easily forgotten after the initial novelty wears off—we have fixed all of that.”
While Min is known for his bombastic and enthusiastic statements, Razer might be on to something here, adding flourishes and features that make a wearable device like this useful and, crucially, something you’ll be actually want to use on a daily basis.
As you’d expect, the Nabu is a companion for your smartphone, both iOS and Android. It receives notifications via Bluetooth 4.0, and will integrate into a dedicated app.
The Nabu has two screens for users to interact with. The upward facing 32 x 32 pixel one has a deliberately minimalist design with the intention of giving the user privacy. For example, a single phone icon will indicate a missed call but omit details. The underside of the bracelet has a larger display with more details: number of steps, email snippets, tweets, etc.
Razer is packing a swiss-army knife’s worth of tech into the Nabu: 7 day battery life, GPS, altimeter and accelerometer for measuring sleep activity, steps, altitude, location, etc. It’s also rain and splash proof, though Razer hasn’t detailed the exact Ingress Protection (IP) rating.
Here’s what may make or break the Nabu: band-to-band communication. Razer is pushing a social approach to the device which reminds me a bit of Microsoft's Zune (remember the “Squirt” feature?) — it’ll only be useful if millions of people adopt the bracelet.
Take this scenario as an example: I walk up to you at a meeting and we’re both wearing a Nabu. When we shake hands, the Nabu initiates an exchange of information between us: virtual business cards, LinkedIn profiles, Facebook friend requests. (All of this would be defined and customizable by each user.)
The development kit for the Nabu is open source, and Razer is hoping to spur development by making it available to developers for $49, though that definitely won’t be the final retail price when the device launches worldwide by the end of March.