LAS VEGAS - Will.I.Am's long-teased PULS smartband may actually be coming soon, based on our hands-on experience at CES 2015. Announced at a Salesforce show late 2014, the musician's intelligent accessory demo focused mostly on the voice functions. Price and availability are not yet known.
I was pleasantly surprised by how full-featured the PULS was. Not only does it offer standalone smartphone features, such as making calls and sending texts via built-in SIM support, it also packs a host of apps and voice control. Powered by Nuance, PULS's voice assistant Aneeda acts like Siri and Google Now for hands-free navigation of the system.
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Designed to pack more personality than rivals Siri or Google Now, Aneeda was quite a riot during the demo. A Nuance rep told Aneeda, "Talk dirty to me," and the voice assistant retorted, "What the f--k would you like me to say?" The system was still in early stages of production, so there was not a lot of banter to be had with Aneeda, but commands such as "Navigate to the airport" and "How tall is the Eiffel Tower" returned relevant, accurate results (via Wolfram Alpha or Esri GPS). The response was also impressively speedy on both Wi-Fi and data connections, with a short pause before answers.
Aside from Aneeda, you can swipe and tap to get around the PULS's system. The first screen you see when you wake up the device is a watch face, and dragging in from the left of the 1.7-inch screen brings up three shortcut icons. The top Home icon takes you to apps, middle button brings up notifications and bottom button activates Aneeda. Swiping in from the left edge of the screen pulls up a menu for each app that's open.
The PULS will eventually be available in three sizes -- small, medium and large. The medium version I tried was a tad chunky for my relatively small wrist. The band closes with a magnetic clasp, and you can add attachments for a better fit. PULS is powered by a 1.5-GHz dual-core Qualcomm CPU with 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. It also offers Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi.
The i.am.PULS team has already been offering the smart cuff for sale at pop-up stores in certain AT&T locations across the nation, and you can already order the device if you have an invite.
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