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Haier's Asu smartwatch has a projector... but why?

Its practical use isn't quite clear, but the Haier Asu hides a tiny projector that uses your hand as the screen.

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As you tap out a phone number, Haier Asu will project it onto the back of your hand.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Haier showed up at Mobile World Congress 2018 eager to prove that there are still features to crank out of a wearable. 

The new Asu Smartwatch is boxy, bulky and hides a tiny projector. It's not what you're looking for if you want a sleek or stylish accessory. But the Asu is still a conversation piece. 

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The projector is tiny, but bright.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The projector peeks out of the watch's right side, throwing a range of information and images at the back of your hand or anything else you point it at. With the projector's 480x854-pixel resolution, I could clearly see whatever it projected onto my somewhat-hairy skin.

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Exactly what can it show? It can project the digits you're tapping out when you enter a phone number -- I guess that could be a clever way to share you number with a date. It can also display the steps you've taken with the integrated fitness tracker. Some of its more basic features, such as the stopwatch also work with the projector. I could imagine it coming in handy if you're out running and looking at the watch face is too difficult. If you're more daring, you can give yourself a temporary light-based tattoo as by drawing an image onto the 1.5-inch (240x240-pixel) touchscreen. 

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Don't bother checking the watch face when timing your next run. All the information you need is on your hand. 

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The Asu has one gigabyte of memory inside and it's powered by a 1.2GHz processor. Other features include a heart-rate sensor, GPS, 4G LTE support and a gyroscope. The Asu has an IP65 rating making it resistant to dust and bursts of water from a low-pressure nozzle.

If you're wondering whether the Asu is really a bright idea, I don't blame you. The projector is unique and intriguing, no doubt, but it also carries a certain "OK, so what?" element. Just how practical is it? What problem does it solve? Honestly, I can't say. You can use it to check what time it is, of course. But there are plenty of other ways to do that.

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