Wearable Tech World Feature Article
January 08, 2014

Razer's Nabu - A Fabulous New Hybrid Smartwatch and Activity Tracker Shows Up at CES 2014

The other day we took a look at what Sony has up its sleeves on the wearable tech front. In noting Sony's SmartWatch 2 and new SmartBand products we wistfully noted that we would like to get our hands on a combined activity tracker and smartwatch. Well, no sooner wistfully wished for than perhaps also delivered.

Razer, a company that builds some awesome gaming hardware products - including a true "gaming tablet" that won a Best of Show award at CES 2013 - announced yesterday that it will be delivering the Razer Nabu, a wearable technology device that combines the most needed/desired features of both activity trackers and smartwatches. That Razer is building this product is of interest to us because of the company's already established reputation for building quality and highly effective products.

Founded in San Diego by our Min-Liang Tan and President Robert “Razerguy” Krakoff, Razer began life with a couple other gamers and has since grown to a hundred employees worldwide with offices in nine cities that include San Francisco, Hamburg, Seoul, Shanghai, and Singapore. The company's design mantra is based on three fundamental tenets: technology, ergonomics, and validation from the very best professional gamers.

Top notch scientists and engineers develop cutting edge technology in-house or with partners, design products with extensive human interfacing studies and then "test the hell out of them" per Razer in field with pro-gamers before launch. The technology and designs are incubated in three design facilities located in California, Singapore and Shenzhen. The successful products the company has delivered to date provide the proof for Razer's methods.

It is with this in mind that we are now very much looking forward to getting a hands-on look at what the company has built on the wearable tech front. The Nabu has a soft rubber skin. It isn't waterproof but will likely stand up to a little bit of rain. It's collection of sensors include an accelerometer, an altimeter, and a cylindrical vibration motor.

The Nabu appears to be at first glance a typical activity tracker wristband. And yes, it delivers on that front as shown below. But the Nabu is also able to provide the user with notifications, texts and emails - exactly the way a smartwatch is likely to do (depending on the smartwatch).

Also notable about the Nabu is what we might refer to as a "gaming touch" in that the Nabu designers took into account battery life and have sought to extend it through the use of gesture controls. The Nabu will, for example, notify the user of available texts or emails with a small indicator on the top of the wristband but it won't display any text unless users turn their wrists over. Shaking one's wrist can be designated to dismiss an alert.

The Nabu is able to connect of course to one's smartwatch the low energy Bluetooth 4.0 but also supports Wi-Fi connectivity.

Both iOS and Android are supported. The Nabu is also able to sense the presence of other Nabu devices through Pulse, Razer’s own proprietary band-to-band communication technology. We're not entirely sure of the complete value of this as yet although it should become possible to, for example, exchange contacts and other social networking information wirelessly between devices (and from there to a smartphone).

The device comes with two actual screens - which Razer distinguishes by designating one the public screen and the other the private screen. These are provided through two OLED displays - a 32 x 32 pixel public notification screen and a 128 x 32 pixel private message screen. The intent here is that the public screen delivers a general notification and/or vibration that a user has a message or alert. Users can choose to ignore these but if the user flips their wrist over the private screen will show the message.

Notification channels are rather extensive, as shown below. Where a user's notifications come from is completely customizable and can easily be turned off and on.

Razer notes that it is delivering the Nabu as an open platform. The company fully anticipates that third party developers will write apps for the platform. Razer is now making the Nabu available to developers for a mere $49. Current marketing plans according to Razer call for the Nabu to become more widely available towards the end of March.

We are absolutely intrigued by the Nabu. $49 is a fabulous price but we can certainly expect Razer to raise that significantly come March. We can expect the Nabu to show up in a range of colors at that point as well.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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