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The future of Razer's Nabu wearable will be written by superfans and developers

Wearables success is up for grabs. No single company has perfected smartwatches, activity trackers or smartglasses, so why not tap into the passions of third-party developers and superfans, and see what they can come up with?

It’s a strategy that’s been making headlines for Google’s Explorer program, but let’s not forget a relatively niche hardware company called Razer, which caters to a passionate fan base of hardcore PC gamers. On Tuesday, Razer announced that it has begun shipping a limited number of its Nabu Developer Edition, allowing app developers to finally put software to metal, so to speak.

As Razer explains in a YouTube video, third-party developers can use its open SDK to connect the activity-tracking Nabu wristband to the Internet of Things. For example, the Nabu tracks sleep cycles, so a wily developer could create an app that starts brewing your morning coffee as soon as the wristband senses you’ve started your day.

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The Nabu developer program garnered more than 10,000 applicants within 24 hours of its first announcement in early February. Razer says more than 30,000 developers have signed up in total. The company hasn’t shared any information on exactly how many applicants will be receiving the Nabu Developer Edition hardware, which sells for just $50.

But there’s still good news for non-developers to make an impact on the Nabu’s future: Razer will select 500 “hardcore” fans to beta test the wristband before its final consumer release. To be among the privileged few, applicants must prove a high degree of tech savvy; promise to deliver detailed beta-test reports; have previous experience with Razer products; and have an active presence on social media. If that sounds like you, fill out an application on Razer’s Nabu page.

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I saw the Nabu at CES in January, but because it was entombed in a Lucite case, I didn’t actually get a chance to use it. We know that it does simple step and sleep tracking, but these are just table stakes in the activity-tracking wristband game. To this extent, Razer deserves kudos for tapping into the collective wisdom of third-party developers to extend its wearables platform. The activity-tracking wristband product category may only be three years old, but it’s already running out of fresh ideas.

So, who knows, maybe some hardcore Razer fanatic will show us the future of wearables in a wristband formfactor.

Just be aware that the beta version of Nabu will only include the 128x32 OLED “privacy” screen that sits on the bottom of the wristband, flat against the underside of one’s wrist. This is where users will see potentially sensitive data like text messages and caller I.D. I’m still waiting for Razer to confirm that the final shipping model will include two displays—one “public” display on the top, plus the aforementioned “private” screen—as the company demoed at CES.

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