Google is officially getting into wearables. The company has announced Android Wear, a version of the operating system designed specifically for wearable devices. To start with, the system is made for smartwatches, and Google is moving aggressively to make itself the key name in wearables.
The company has released two videos that show off what the watch interface will look like, and from what we've seen, it's very impressive. In addition, Motorola and LG have already revealed their first Android Wear smartwatches, which look more attractive than any smartwatches we've seen to date. Motorola's first device is featured in the picture above and the videos below.
There are several key features that have been announced. Of course, fitness is a key component. Google says that you'll be able to get "real-time speed, distance and time information on your wrist for your run, cycle or walk." Naturally, that means Google Maps will be built in so that you'll be able to get directions directly from your wrist.
The company will also be using Google Now in the watches. Automatic, passive reminders will be sent to users via their smartwatch. The watches will also connect with Android smartphones so that you'll be able to get all the notifications that you want from whatever apps you have installed on your phone.
You'll also be able to say "OK Google" to perform voice searches, à la Google Now. Lastly, the company is teasing multi-screen functionality from the smartwatches that use the operating system. As an example, Google says that you can use a voice command to cast a video to your Chromecast or get a certain song to play on your phone. It's not hard to imagine more exciting uses for this technology as Google works to get Android into more hardware around the world, such as the connected smarthomes and cars of the future.
Google is working to make sure these watches aren't hideous: Fossil and other "fashion brands" will apparently offer watches using the operating system later this year. The company says it is also already working with current Android partners like Asus, HTC, LG, Motorola, and Samsung on wearables. LG's first device with Android Wear will be called the G Watch, and it's being produced in collaboration with Google just like the Nexus 4 and Nexus 5 before it. The device will be available in the second quarter of this year.
In many ways, Android Wear seems like it's built off of the work the company did on Google Glass. The operating system looks fairly similar to the interface used by the controversial wearable. It's possible that Google has transformed that work into something that's less polarizing.
We'll hear much more about Wear at Google I/O in June
Today's announcement follows comments from Android and Chrome chief Sundar Pichai at SXSW last week. He confirmed that the company was working on offering tools for developers and manufacturers to make Android better suited for devices such as smartwaches. In addition, Google recently purchased Nest, the makers of the Nest Learning Thermostat and the Protect smoke detector. It's still unclear what role Nest will be taking within the company.
Google isn't offering specific details on when we can expect to see more about Android Wear — or what other devices will use the system in the future — but a preview of the operating system is available now so that developers can make sure their app notifications will work with Wear.
We expect to hear much, much more about Android Wear at Google I/O from June 25th to 26th, which is just a couple of months away. Of particular interest is how Google plans to use Android Wear in other devices beyond smartwatches.
Update: Google informs us that the circular watch in the preview videos is Motorola's upcoming smartwatch. In addition, we've been told that LG will not be the first to ship an Android Wear smartwatch — it will be "one of the first." We regret the error.