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Meet the wearable tablet you might use at your next job

Engadget Engadget 28/05/2016 Roberto Baldwin
© Provided by Engadget © Provided by Engadget

There's no way I would wear the Rufus Cuff wrist computer. After a few minutes with this 3.2-inch Android tablet strapped to my body, my wrist started to get all sweaty. It felt bulky, weird and to be honest, not very cool. But if the massive pre-orders are any indication, there is clearly a market out there. In particular, says the company's CEO, Gabe Grifoni, in a few years something like the Cuff will replace the iPhone in your pocket and even be part of your next work uniform.

I'll admit, I was initially dubious that a device that makes me feel like a less-cooler version of Leela from Futurama will be the first step of an inevitable wearable-computer revolution. But then Grifoni began telling me about potential industrial uses for the Cuff and it all started to make sense.

Employers believe that small Bluetooth-enabled Android tablets on their employees' arms are a pretty good idea, according to feedback from the companies that have reached out to Rufus. With an app and a connected scanner, tasks like inventory, housekeeping at hotels and ticket-taking can be streamlined by freeing up the hands of the employees who would otherwise have to hold a tablet. The relatively low $300 price tag also means that smaller companies without the deep pockets of corporations could also get in on the action.

After a successful crowdfunding campaign, Grifoni started getting unexpected calls from businesses and their employees. "We were starting to get all these emails from warehouse workers and hotels." he told Engadget. He says he's talked to UPS and other companies about their employees using the Cuff in the workplace.

While the campaign generated $800,000 in pre-orders, Grifoni realized that enterprise is where all the growth is right now. But don't worry, early adopters, the company will still sell the Cuff to consumers. Just beware that you're not going to be rocking the latest generation of technology. Specifically, the pre-production unit I tried out had a 400x240 3.2-inch screen, which will look absolutely ancient next to your modern-day smartphone. Also, the 640x480 front-facing camera is guaranteed to make all your selfies look awful.

The actual bracelet portion of the device looks fine, though, and at least kept the Cuff mostly parallel with my arm. That said, while I would probably get used to having a computer on my wrist all day, it's not something I'd look forward to. Did I mention it made my arm sweaty?

Grifoni predicts that wearable computers (not smartwatches) will be the norm in five to 10 years. We'll get tired of pulling our phones out of our pockets and instead opt to have them visible at all times.

Maybe he's right. It's possible the future of mobile computing could be attached to our bodies. But even if he's wrong, if he can get the Cuff into businesses and warehouses, it doesn't really matter if the world's population embraces tablets on their bodies in their free time because at work, some of us will get them with our nametags.

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