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Google Unveils Android Wear For Smartwatches

Google execs have been promising Android-for-wearables, and now we have our first proper look at the software. Via the Official Google Blog, the company has shown off its vision of how Android is going to work on wearable devices, starting with the smartwatch. “We’re only at the beginning; we’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s possible with mobile technology,” says Sundar Pichai, Google’s VP of Android, Chrome and Apps.

The operating system is called Android Wear and bears more than a passing resemblance to Google Now, the smart assistant app available on iOS and Android. Alongside the time and date, Android Wear can bring up forecasts, sports scores, text messages, appointment reminders and directions to your next destination. The software can easily communicate with mobile phones and other devices, such as the Chromecast.

“We designed an entirely new UI specifically for this form factor,” explains Android designer Alex Faaborg in one of the promotional videos released by Google. “We put a lot of thought into how simple this has to be… it needs to be incredibly fast, incredibly glance-able. There’s really only two components: the information that’s most relevant to you, and the ability to speak to it and do a quick command.”

Tools for developers to get up to speed with Android Wear and customize their app notifications have been released today. Google also confirmed that it is working with a range of manufacturers — including Asus, HTC, LG, Motorola and Samsung — to launch smartwatches powered by Android Wear throughout the course of 2014. A separate teaser suggests Motorola’s effort will be with us in the summer.

Significantly, Google is also partnering with fashion brands such as the Fossil Group to make these devices as aesthetically pleasing as possible. As we’ve seen with the Pebble Steel, wearable makers know that functionality is only half the battle in winning over mainstream adoption — these devices need to both look good and work well to have mass appeal.

Google will be hoping that Android Wear gets a smoother ride than Google Glass — the company’s flagship wearable has been responsible for bar-room brawls and customer bans, as well as debates over driving safety and social etiquette. It’s also had its share of software delays, but it seems that Google is on safer ground with the more conventional smartwatch form factor. We’ll have to wait and see how these devices work when they finally launch.

Your move, Apple.

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