All posts by Lucy Ingham

Futurama-style wrist communicator is your new all-in-one smart device

Once in a while a piece of technology comes along that you feel like you already know, not because it has already been done, but because it is so firmly rooted in science fiction and popular culture that it seems like it already exists.

The Rufus Cuff is the latest of these technologies. According to its makers, it is the first “wrist communicator”, a wristband that can both tether to a smartphone or work independently.

Although a fairly unique product, the Rufus Cuff feels straight out of science fiction, and is particularly reminiscent of Turanga Leela’s  “this thing I wear on my wrist” from the cartoon series Futurama and the Pip-Boy 3000 from the Fallout video game series.

Older readers may also see a similarity between the Rufus Cuff and cartoon police detective Dick Tracy’s two-way wrist radio.

turanga-leela

The Rufus Cuff has many similarities to the tethered smart watches that are currently flooding the tech market. It has a built-in mic, speaker and camera, enabling the wearer to make voice and video calls while the device is tethered to their smartphone. An untethered version can even make voice and video calls over Wi-Fi.

However, the Rufus Cuff’s 3 inch screen offers some serious advantages over a conventional smart watch. The cuff runs on Android, so offers a complete web browser along with the ability to watch videos and download apps from Google Play.

It can also be used to send email and other messages: unlike smaller wearables, the screen size allows for a decent typing experience, and when tethered with Siri or Google Now-capable phones Rufus can even be used to dictate messages.

rufus-cuff

With both portrait and landscape display modes, the cuff has been designed to be worn on either the inside or outside of the wrist, which should make for a comfortable using experience – an obviously essential factor in a device intended to be worn most of the time.

The developers have clearly taken this into account, and are giving purchasers of the device on their Indiegogo page a wide choice of colours and finishes, starting at $229 (€166 / £138).

The cuff also has the obligatory fitness functions that appear to have become staple features for most wearables. It features GPS, an accelerometer and a gyroscope, allowing it to make full use of the many fitness apps in the Play store.

Other features include the ability to hook up to Bluetooth enabled products such as locks and lights, potentially making it the coolest way to get home and turn the lights on.

Although less than a week into its Indiegogo campaign, the Rufus Cuff is selling well, with more than 97 funders forking out to lay their hands on one.

This cuff has the potential to be a smart watch killer. Having discussed wearables with many different people, from developers and other journalists to tech-savvy consumers and more conservative gadget-skeptics, the number one thing said about smart watches is that they feel too small to be worthwhile.

Instead, the majority of people describe a larger touchscreen that they can wear on their wrist. A product, in fact, that is almost identical to the Rufus Cuff.


Images courtesy of Rufus Labs.


Virtual rivals: the battle of the VR headsets heats up

It’s been a busy week for virtual reality. Sony’s long-awaited headset for the PS4, Project Morpheus, was unveiled on Tuesday, and Oculus Rift’s Development Kit 2 was announced on Wednesday.

But these were not the only VR headsets making waves this week. Over at London’s Wearable Technology Conference vrAse was wowing developers and tech press hounds alike, while 3D printed Altergaze hit a quarter of its Kickstarter campaign target with over a month to go.

Both products differ from Sony and Oculus’ offerings in that they are designed to work with your smartphone: by slotting your phone into either headset it becomes an effective VR device for gaming and 3D video.

Kickstarter has played a powerful role in getting VR headsets off the ground. Both vrAse and Oculus were also Kickstarter-funded, and there is clearly an appetite among would-be backers for this kind of tech.

vr-vrase

vrAse is pitching to a different market to Oculus in that its expected to be quite a bit cheaper, at less than £100. It’s also going for a slightly different approach by showing off its headset as an on-the-go device for use on planes, trains and out and about.

The headset is designed to work with a wide variety of smartphones. vrAse has created a ‘perfect fit’ model for leading handsets, including the iPhone 5, HTC One and Galaxy Note 2, as well as a standard model that works with phones sized between 3.5” to 6.3”, although the company recommends using smartphones sized between 5” and 6”.

vrAse can be used to watch 3D videos, play games in 3D with a bluetooth controller and as an AR device.

We had the pleasure of trying out vrAse at this week’s Wearable Technology Conference and were pretty impressed with the results. The game we tried, a rollercoaster simulator, was incredibly immersive and the 3D video felt very realistic.

vr-altergaze

However, a would-be contender to vrAse has popped up on Kickstarter in the form of Altergaze. The Altergaze headset functions very similarly to vrAse in that you put your smartphone into it to get a VR headset you can play games and watch videos on.

The key difference with Altergaze is that its 3D printed. This means that the cost is very low, and enables a very wide range of customisation – an appealing option for a technology that runs the risk of making you look a little silly if worn in public.

Altergaze is also using this manufacturing method to boost worldwide distribution by encouraging 3D print shops to become manufacturers.

The 3D printed, slotted together style of Altergaze also makes it resemble old fashioned goggles, giving it potential appeal with the steampunk crowd.

All in all, though, the key question will be whether these cheaper, smartphone-based VR headsets will appeal to users enough to let them contend with the big boys. In the long run their price and versatility might even give them an advantage.


Images courtesy of vrAse and Altergaze.