Google’s Android SDK for Wearable Tech: The Possibilities

Android bot wearing a tool belt.

Mobile phones have increasingly evolved from clunky calling devices into sleek, pocket-sized computers. With smartphone adoption at critical mass, the next phase of computing will come out of our pockets and into wearable tech. This sci-fi fantasy is rapidly becoming a reality, and Google’s taking aim to be at the forefront.

On March 9th, during the 2014 SXSWi conference, Google announced it’s releasing a Software Development Kit (SDK) for Android-powered wearables in two weeks (around March 23). The potential of the SDK is huge, effectively uniting any kind of sensor-laden wearables from clothing to accessories (jewelry, helmets, shoes, glasses, watches, jackets, etc) into one seamless, wearable tech network. With this move, Google’s making a play to be the primary engine behind development for wearable technology – but the actual value of the SDK remains to be seen until developers get their hands on it.

The move by Google isn’t entirely surprising, given that the wearables market has been heating up in the past couple of years. Consider notable releases like the Pebble SmartWatch, Google Glass, Samsung’s Galaxy Gear, and body-monitoring wrist bands like Nike’s Fuelband, Jawbone’s UP, and the Fitbit. And that’s just the beginning.

Imagining Smart Glasses and Watches

In fact, last summer Sourcebits re-imagined the design of Google Glass to be more stylish and functional. Then, in January, Google announced a redesign that looked uncannily similar.

Sourcebits google glass re-imagined design vs the actual re-design.

And while Apple has yet to deliver a wearable contender, rumors and speculation about an iWatch have been flying for more than a year. At Sourcebits we decided to have some fun and came up with our own take on what Apple’s iWatch could look like. We created an entire microsite outlining the features and functions – with a quick poll asking “Would you wear our iWatch?” Spoiler alert – 77% of respondents said yes!

Sourcebits iWatch design concept vs the original iWatch.

A Sourcebits Sr. Android Developer Says…

The onslaught of wearable tech has led some to dub 2014/2015 the “era of wearables”. Our Senior Android Developer, Chris Dietz, is working on developing software for the Vuzix M100 Smart Glasses. Built for industrial use, Vuzix has been a repeat award winner at CES. The Vuzix team at Sourcebits has built 7 pre-loaded apps for the wearable hardware.

The Vuzix M100 Smart Glasses is an Android-based wearable computer, enhanced with a wearable monocular display and computer, recording features and wireless connectivity capabilities designed for commercial, professional, and prosumer users. Its pre-installed apps can be used to record and playback still pictures and video, track timed events, manage your calendar, link to your phone and more. The M100 is compatible with thousands of existing Android apps and easy access to developer resources enables the creation of custom apps to suit virtually any need

“In contrast to a phone, which most people interact with nearly every five minutes, wearable tech should just “be there” when you need it, but completely ignorable when you don’t,” Chris says. “People don’t constantly think about their belt or check the shoes they’re wearing, and that should be true of wearable tech too. That is something that phones aren’t really capable of providing, because they’re both cumbersome and not “always on.”

Wearables need to provide the information exactly when you want or need it, with the ability to predict what you’re doing and give you relatable information regarding that activity. Google Now, which aims to give “the right information at just the right time,” is an excellent precursor to the predictive information needed for wearables to succeed.

Chris imagines a variety of “always on” predictive uses for wearable technology.

  1. When you’re walking down the street, you decide to enter a restaurant and instantly the Yelp Reviews or maybe a menu pops up.
  2. You hop onto a bus and the bus route appears before you.
  3. Maybe you walk into the post office and the shipping rates show up.
  4. When you enter a historic building or tourist destination, the Wikipedia page automatically opens.
Girl uses Smart Glasses to check the weather in New York.

“This type of “automatic” model could cause problems though,” Chris warns. “For one, all these apps pinging sensors like the GPS would quickly drain the battery. There’s also the problem of “knowledge conflict” – meaning there might be apps which conflict and fight for your attention. For example, Foursquare and Yelp may try to open at the same time when I go to a café. Possible issues like this would need to be resolved.”

What do YOU think?

The future of wearables is undoubtedly exciting. At Sourcebits, we’re ready for whatever’s coming next and look forward to diving into Google’s SDK when it’s available.

What’s your killer app idea for the wearables market? Would you go for a watch, glasses or something else?

Let us know in the comments, and contact us if you have any questions or would like to know more about our hardware+software experience.

Piotr Gajos, Chief Innovation Officer

Piotr is Sourcebits Chief Innovation Officer. A 2006 Apple Design Award winner, Piotr draws much of his inspiration from film and music, and focuses on leading our Innovation Strategy Workshops, generating new ideas for Sourcebits, and consulting on projects.