Google has announced Android Wear, a version of its mobile operating system tailored for smartwatches and other wearable devices.
Google isn’t ignoring the fitness angle either, as Android Wear devices will be able to detect speed and distance travelled.
The finer details of Android Wear’s interface are still unclear, but we can get a broad sense from Google’s developer siteand design guidelines. Incoming messages will be truncated to fit on the screen, but users can tap on it to see the whole thing. Multiple messages from the same app will resemble a vertical stack of cards, which users can swipe through.
From there, users can swipe to the right to take action on a message or notification. For instance, a messaging app could offer up to five canned responses and a voice-command button for dictating a more detailed response. A calendar reminder could show meeting notes with one swipe and offer directions with another swipe.
As for hardware, Google says it’s working with devicemakers Asus, HTC, LG, Motorola and Samsung and chipmakers Broadcom, Imagination, Intel, MediaTek and Qualcomm. Fossil, a more traditional watchmaker, is also on board in some capacity. According to Engadget, LG is already teasing a “G Watch” that will be aimed at developers. Motorola has also teased a round smartwatch based on Android Wear called the Moto 360.
The announcement does leave some unanswered questions and concerns. We don’t really know what the first Android Wear devices will look like or whether they’ve gotten over any of the technology hurdlesfound in earlier smartwatches. We don’t know exactly what screen sizes and dimensions and form factors Android Wear will support, beyond the generally square and round wristwatch screens Google shows on its developer site. And we don’t know how devicemakers will differentiate their hardware or how much leeway they’ll have to modify the software.
But with today’s announcement, we do have a sense of Google’s vision for wearable devices. It’s not a major departure from the company’s efforts with Google Glass — and maybe that was Glass’s bigger goal all along — but it’s altogether less creepyand better thought out than any other wearable software we’ve seen yet.