Google is betting big on the smartwatch space after announcing it is extending its Android operating system to wearables.
The tech giant last night lifted the veil on Android Wear, a cut-down version of its operating system designed to allow consumers to interact with wearables "with just a glance or spoken word".
Smartwatches will be the initial focus, with a flurry of devices from OEM partners including Asus, HTC, LG, Motorola and Samsung – as well as fashion brands such as Fossil Group – due out later this year. Chip makers such as Intel and Qualcomm are also on board.
In a blog post, Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Chrome and apps at Google, said Android Wear will allow users to carry out everyday chores such as calling a taxi or sending a text by bellowing "OK Google" into their timepieces.
It is also designed to help users hit their exercise goals by giving them reminders and fitness summaries.
As of yesterday, a Developer Preview has been made available to ISVs so they can tailor their existing app notifications for watches powered by Android Wear, one of the first of which will be the "Moto 360" (pictured) from Motorola, set to launch in the US in the summer.
"Because Android for wearables works with Android's rich notification system, many apps will already work well. Look out for more developer resources and APIs coming soon," said Pichai.
"There is a lot of possibilities here so we're eager to see what developers build."
The announcement comes on the heels of news that Virgin Atlantic is carrying out a six-week pilot of Google's smart eyewear offering, Google Glass, in a bid to improve customer service in its first-class cabins.
Analyst Canalys said recently that 2014 will be a "turning point" for smart wearable devices. It estimated that a modest one million smartwatches shipped last year, when the range and functionality of devices was still fairly sophisticated.
"Major growth opportunities will be available to vendors, component suppliers and developers," it said.
Rival analyst Futuresource estimated the total wearables market was worth $8bn (£4.8bn) last year, although fitness devices made up 97 per cent of the total. That figure will grow to $20bn by 2017, it added.
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