Google officially getting into the wearable game beyond Glass.
Many analysts predicted that 2014 would be the ‘year of the wearable’, with major manufacturers such as Samsung & Sony stepping up their game and the startups and newbies of the industry using the emerging product category to gain more exposure and increase their product ranges.
Eyes have recently been on Google, whose pet project Glass has been quietly, but not silently, making headlines in the USA for quite some time now. Not without its controversies, some have wondered if Google would continue working specifically on wearable consumer technology.
Today Google have finally broken their silence on their official blog, formally announcing Android Wear; a version of Android to cater specifically for wearable devices and smartwatches in particular.
The specifics of what’s new are available at the developer preview page, although we can expect some serious Google Now integration, especially when looking at the prototype interface being presented on the videos.
Notifications will naturally come through to Android Wear units, as well as passive reminders for appointments, contacts and other information Google Now considers useful to you.
Also take a look at the circular screen on that image, something that hasn’t been on the current crop of wearables. According to Motorola’s official blog, this is a prototype of the Moto 360, a product we can expect later in the year.
The blog post makes a statement out of these main points when talking about Android Wear:
- Useful information when you need it most. This is most likely to involve Android’s growing integration with Google Now to provide relevant and up-to-date information, personalised with your daily use and metrics.
- Straight answers to spoken questions. Google have developed their voice recognition significantly and the phrase “OK Google” to wake a new device is familiar now. I would bet that Android Wear’s interface will require intuitive use of the phrase.
- The ability to better monitor your health and fitness. Google look to be making a run at the popular category of ‘wellbeing wearables’. If a decent API is baked into Android Wear, then the likes of Fitbit and others should be looking over their collective shoulders.
- Your key to a multiscreen world. This we can really expect from any good wearable really – the ability to cast information to and from your main Android device(s) & the wearable. Right now only Samsung have really pushed this to current limits on the Gear, with many other smartwatches remaining dumb displays. Android Wear promises to open up the possibility of more cross compatibility between devices so using “OK Google” to open playlists on your phone, or cast media to a TV etc.
We’re also already working with … Asus, HTC, LG, Motorola and Samsung … Broadcom, Imagination, Intel, Mediatek and Qualcomm; and fashion brands like the Fossil Group to bring you watches powered by Android Wear later this year
Of course watches aren’t everything, as Google state in their post. Many in the industry do seem to be focussed on the category though. Hopefully with Android Wear now out in the open, enterprising developers can perhaps move on from the idea of simply making watches, and move on to even more interesting products. What would you consider to be a killer app or device considering this new approach?
Google’s next big event is Google I/O from June 25th / 26th and we can expect a lot more information to be released then.
Until then or whenever Google decide to release more information, this pair of videos from GoogleMobile and AndroidDevelopers gives a good overview of what we can expect from Android Wear, as well as providing some useful information for anyone that wants to get coding now!