Google this week announced Android Wear, a specialized version of its Android OS designed for wearable devices. Our initial reaction is that this is a game changer of immense proportions. Now that we have had time gulp down and thoroughly digested available information on Android Wear; here’s our understanding of what represents a huge landmark in the wearable device landscape.
Let’s get straight to the point. What Google is introducing with Android Wear is more or less a shot in the arm for the wearables industry. Mountain View is once again introducing a standard that will be adhered to by all major OEMs, and if we scale things globally, Android Wear will be used by hundreds of manufacturers around the globe.
What will initially been showcased on the future LG Smart Watch and Motorola Moto 360 Smart Watch, will be eventually taken over and expanded by other partners, many of them based here in Taiwan. The Asus SmartWatch is being developed in direct and close collaboration with Google, so we are hoping June (think Computex 2014/ Google I/O…) we could find ourselves facing an Armada of wearables equipped with Android Wear.
So how does Android Wear work?
To understand the two main features of Android Wear, I can best recommend the Eric Schmidt keynote at IFA 2010. Schmidt offers us a snapshot of Google’s future, in doing so, explaining what is basically the fundamental principles of Android Wear:
In the post-Snowden era, this quote is likely to raise some questions:
“We can suggest what you should do next, what you care about. Imagine: We know where you are, we know what you like.”
Some commentators will doubtless feel a little queasy with issues of data privacy raised by Schmidt:
“Ultimately, search is not just the web but literally all of your information – your email, the things you care about, with your permission – this is personal search, for you and only for you.”
But according to Schmidt, Google’s hunger for data, also means the company has your back:
“A near-term future in which you do not forget anything, because the computer remembers. You’re never lost.”
We can summarize the point that Schmidt is trying to make as two key Android Wear features; ‘Context Stream’ and ‘Cue Card’.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal in August 2013:
“Let’s say you’re walking down the street. Because of the info Google Has collected about you, “Roughly we know who you are, Roughly what you care about, who your friends are Roughly.” – Schmidt
“So Google knows, to within a foot, where you are. Mr. Schmidt leaves it to a listener to imagine the possibilities: If you need milk and there’s a place nearby to get milk, Google will remind you to get milk. It will tell you a store ahead Has A collection of horse-racing posters, did a 19th-century murder you’ve been reading about Took place on the next block.”
Android Wear – Context Stream
The most fundamental feature of Android is the so called Stream Context, a stream of data basically of a similar kind to the display of your SmartWatch. This is already happening with Google Now for smartphones and tablets devices. A vertical list of cards displays notifications and information that directly corresponds with your interests, if you like, the ‘who we are’ that Schmidt talks about.
Each of the individual cards can also yield additional data, which can then be called up directly via a swipe from right to left. Conversely it can be instantly forgotten in a swipe from left to right.
Plus, who wants to deal directly with the information or respond to notifications, you can optimize your device using a number of cards and then respond, among other things, with a simple voice command:
But will we end up having a having a flood of unwanted and unnecessary notifications, because let’s be honest, not everything that is displayed on the Smartphone, needs to be followed up on the wrist. Google has established guidelines for developers here, so that the arm of the SmartWatch carrier is not literally under constantly strain.
Interested developers can visit developer.android.com/wear. Register, submit the appropriate background information quickly get up to speed with what features of the Google ecosystem are already included in Android Wear.
The maps and information displayed in the Context Stream are also capable of knowing what transport you are using to move from A to B. Pedestrians and motorists will get appropriate cards displayed, as will cyclists and vice versa. The Schmidt predictions from back in the year 2010, once again confirmed.
Android Wear Cue Card
In addition to the main navigation of the context stream, Android Wear platforms include the Android Wear Cue Card interface. Like the classic “Ok Google” voice command used in Google Glass, which allows you to directly ask questions, or for example, reserve a table at a restaurant. Who can shy away from the speech input simply click on the “G” icon in the upper right corner and calling up the corresponding map, all possible commands are then displayed in a list and can be joined by the user with an appropriate app (thus we are not dependent on only the default apps).What was possible with Google web search, Google Now and Google Glass is now also part of Android Wear as a context stream.
Android Wear as a Game Changer
I’m happy to repeat what I said earlier in this article. What Google has introduced with Android Wear is a new standard that will be integrated by industry partners who are only too happy to jump on board. If we look at the list of partners, we see in addition to ASUS, LG Mototola, HTC that even Samsung are onboard, having indeed only just introduced the new Samsung Smart Gear Watches with the Tizen OS.
Apart from the chip manufacturers Broadcom, Intel, Mediatek, MIPS and Qualcomm, one other manufacturer stands above all others in this announcement: FOSSIL! This gives me the opportunity to now again mention the company by name, something which I have already mentioned in my interview back in September 2013:
If these trends continue FOSSIL, TAG Heuer, Casio, Seiko and Citizens will soon follow and make Android Wear not only an OS for smart watches, but for a “Smart Jewelry”, “Accessories” and more.
You could almost say that Google has struck a hole in one with Android Wear, or at least as far we can see from this vantage point. Now it’s up to Apple to confirm with the iWatch that my thesis from last November is also true: