Google Is Out to Rule the Smartwatch World

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
March 18 2014 2:34 PM

This Might Be How Google Wins the Wearables War

smartwatch
The hipster aesthetic is strong with this one.

Photo from Google.

The idea of smartwatches has been percolating for a few years now, so we've gotten most of our retro-future jokes out of the way. Companies like Samsung and Pebble went in first to try to establish an early lead in the space, but it's getting near time for the tech giants to jump in. With the announcement of Android Wear today, Google is clearly going in for the kill.

Android Wear is Google's Android-based operating system for wearables, and in this early incarnation it will be optimized for watches with intuitive gestures and an emphasis on voice commands instead of keyboards. Google says that it is partnering with manufacturers like Asus, HTC, LG, Motorola, and Samsung—Samsung has said that it will be using its in-house operating system, Tizen, in future Galaxy Gear smartwatches. Google is also working with Broadcom, Imagination, Intel, Mediatek and Qualcomm to develop new chips, and says that it will be working with "fashion brands" like Fossil.

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All of this could mean that Google is working on designing its own smartwatch. Between Google Now and Google Glass, Google has extremely relevant experience in personalized information processing and hardware/software development for wearables. The video below just feels like an unusually wrist-obsessed Glass promotion. The whole presentation gives the feeling of components falling into place rather than being thrown together.

Motorola (which was owned by Google until it was bought by Lenovo in January) also announced the first smartwatch running Android Wear today. The Moto 360 is the first round-faced smartwatch and more may be on the way since Google is asking Android Wear developers to design apps with round faces in mind, along with square.

motorola
The Moto 360.

Photo from Motorola.

A preview of the Android Wear software development kit is available for developers today. It includes the ability to design for voice command and device-pairing features, and customize alerts for things like messages, social media posts, and health and fitness tracking. In the introductory video, David Singleton the director of engineering for Android, and Android designer Alex Faaborg talk about how they want developers to take Android Wear apps in completely new directions (the screen images in the video are simulated). And they note that the goal of Android Wear is to be "glance-able." If smartwatches have never made sense to you, the amalgamation of so many well-known Google services in Android Wear may give you some insight into the possibilities.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Lily Hay Newman is lead blogger for Future Tense.

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