Google is dipping its toes into the wearables world with Android Wear.
In a blog post on Tuesday, the Internet titan unwrapped the details of a modified version of its mobile Android operating system. The OS will be heavily based on its Google Now voice-recognition technology, and it’s designed to be applied to wearables, with the initial push being smartwatches.
Google also introduced LG, Asus, HTC, Motorola, and Samsung as hardware partners to utilize Android Wear, and Broadcom, Imagination, Intel, MediaTek, and Qualcomm as chip partners. The Fossil Group will bring Android Wear-powered watches later this year.
CNET previously reported that Google would release the details of its smartwatch-centric OS in March. The report also noted LG and Google would unveil a smartwatch at the Google I/O developer conference, and a person briefed on the matter confirmed that LG would indeed be the first partner to have its smartwatch go on sale.
Google’s entry marks an attempt to provide a little stability and order in the wild, wild wearables world. Samsung and Sony have already created their own Android-based smartwatches (although Samsung has recently switched to Tizen), and Google is looking to set up a foundation with a more consistent experience, just as it has attempted to do over the last few iterations of Android in smartphones.
Android Wear, like Google Glass, will rely on Google Now and the voice command, “Ok Google” to ask questions or fire off a text message. The post said that Android Wear is designed to provide relevant information, as well as notifications from social apps, alerts from your messaging apps, and notifications from shopping, news, and photography apps.
The modified OS will also focus on health and fitness tracking, a trend made popular by the likes of Fitbit Force and the Nike FuelBand.
Google also wants Android Wear to serve as a link between you and other devices, including your television or computer.
Hopefully, Google’s input will help with the aesthetic appeal of smartwatches. While wearables is considered a “hot” area, sales have been anything but. Samsung’s original Galaxy Gear and Sony’s SmartWatch remain niche products, and they are seen as too bulky and cumbersome to be considered fashionable. Other complaints include weak battery life and the lack of certain functions.
Still, there are a number of startups that have sprung up in hopes of meeting this new demand for fashionable technology. Pebble, for instance, has grown from virtually nothing to making headlines at a big conference such as the Consumer Electronics Show.
Google has opened up a section on wearables, and developers can download a developer preview to create app notifications for watches through Android Wear. The company teased more developer resources and APIs to come.