Although the functionality of wearable technology may be beginning to measure up to expectations, its aesthetic form has largely been derided, and designers face the task of bridging the tech and fashion worlds. Cuff is one of a number of fledgling companies that is looking to reconcile technological prowess with head-turning looks. Its newly-launched range of fashion accessories incorporate a discrete wireless device that, when pressed, sends a notification to your chosen contacts to let them know you're trying to make contact.
The device around which the Cuff range is built is aimed primarily at promoting safety and security for its users, but it can also be used simply to let people know you are trying to get in touch. The CuffLinc is a small wireless token that slots into any of the Cuff range of accessories. It links via Bluetooth with an accompanying app on the user's smartphone.
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Cuff was founded by Deepa Sood, the former VP of Product Development at home furnishings chain Restoration Hardware. Though the basis of the company fits neatly with prevailing tech trends, along with devices like the Netatmo June, the initial idea was almost serendipitous and it has been developed quickly. "We started working on Cuff in September of last year," Sood tells Gizmag. "We were having a dinner party and my husband's tech friends were debating with my designer friends about what could make tech exciting. Cuff was born."
The Cuff app is compatible with Bluetooth 4-enabled devices running iOS 6 and later, including the iPhone 4s, 5s, iPod Touch Gen 5, iPad Gen 3 and 4, and iPad Mini. No Android app is currently available, with Cuff citing the lack of consistent Bluetooth support as the reason for this. "We are keeping an eye on future Android releases, and when the platform supports Bluetooth 4.0 in a stable way, we plan to release a Cuff app for Android," the company says on its website.
Once a user's chosen group of contacts, or "Cuff Circle," is set up, required maintenance is minimal. The CuffLinc has been designed to last for one year, and is designed to be replaced annually rather than recharged. It's listed at US$30 on Cuff's website.
The current Cuff range of accessories available for pre-order includes bracelets, keychains and necklaces, with plans to support other fashion designers in creating accessories that will accommodate the CuffLinc. The range was designed by Sood, whose time at Restoration Hardware provided experience of the product design and development processes, as well as of branding. Her acumen is apparent when talking about plans for the business. "We are talking with everyone from one-person shops on Etsy to luxury brands, she says. "We plan to unveil some of these partnerships during the two-month pre-order campaign."
According to Sood, 3D printing was used in the design process as a means of producing rapid prototypes. "I had a partner in crime who could bring my sketches to life in a fraction of the time it would have taken," she says.
Basic notifications are just the first piece of the picture for Cuff. Even when the first shipments are made later this year, the functionality will have been added for users to program their device for different purposes. For example, it will be possible for users to take a picture with their smartphone by pressing their CuffLinc, or to make their phone ring when they are on a bad date – an idea Sood says has been very popular. Fitness tracking and home monitoring functionalities are also on the horizon.
Cuff accessories can be pre-ordered now and range from $50 to $150, including a CuffLinc device. The first deliveries are expected to start in the final third of this year.
Watch the video below to learn more about the Cuff technology.