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Google's new mobile operating system is designed for all kinds of wearable devices

Google has announced Android Wear, a project that extends its mobile operating system to wearable devices like smartwatches, and that means you’ll be able to get information like your real-time cycling speed, distance and time on your wrist. Developers are being challenged to come up with completely new ways to use the technology, so maybe we’ll see more unusual cycling applications too.

“[Android Wear is] really based around voice and contextual information that’s reactive to your surroundings,” says Android designer Alex Faabord. “We’re going to see a lot of innovation from developers in this space. This is just wide-open blue sky territory for people to dive in and create new experiences.”

So, with the right app – and, where relevant, hardware – you’ll be able to ask for your speed, the distance you’ve ridden, your power output and so on, and have the information displayed on the screen on your wrist. Google says that becase Android Wear works with Android's rich notification system, many apps will already work well.

“We’re working with consumer electronics manufacturers, chip makers and fashion brands who are committed to fostering an ecosystem of watches is a variety of styles, shapes and sizes,” says David Singleton, Android Director of Engineering.

An ecosystem, huh? Google says that it is already working with several consumer electronics manufacturers, including LG, Motorola, HTC and Samsung, to bring watches powered by Android Wear to the market later this year.

Sports equipment manufacturers are likely to get in on the action soon. Google lists “the ability to better monitor your health and fitness” as one of the benefits of the new devices and apps that they expect to develop following the launch of Android Wear.

“Hit your exercise goals with reminders and fitness summaries from Android Wear,” says Google. “Your favorite fitness apps can give you real-time speed, distance and time information on your wrist for your run, cycle or walk.”

The technology is fairly similar to that of Google Glass in that you get a voice activated source of information on a wearable device. It's also similar to that of the Pebble smartwatch that was launched last year, funded by a Kickstarter campaign.

Android Wear allows you to access and control other devices from your wrist. An example on the video (below) shows a bike rider have their garage door open via voice command. It seems like a whole lot of technology to perform a simple operation like opening a garage door at the end of your ride, but the point is that there will doubtless be many other voice-activated possibilities. 

Although Android Wear will initially be used in watches, it won’t be limited to wrist-mounted devices. It could be used in handlebar-mounted or, presumably, head-up display devices too, which takes us back to Google Glass again. There's a whole legal and safety discussion to be had if the technology does get taken in that direction.

Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over the past 20 years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for seven years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a youthful 45-year-old Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.

8 comments

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BikeBud [200 posts] 1 year ago
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Another distraction for people driving their vehicles?

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gb901 [149 posts] 1 year ago
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Oh dear - how sad!

Onevassumes that all that "functionality" is dependent on a WiFi reception? If so a big ask here in the UK!

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joemmo [1146 posts] 1 year ago
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gb901 wrote:

Oh dear - how sad!

Onevassumes that all that "functionality" is dependent on a WiFi reception? If so a big ask here in the UK!

more likely to connect to your smartphone via bluetooth and then to the webternet via wifi or mobile data.

Agree about the distraction factor, this seems to be a case where technology and bad habits are moving faster than legislation. I saw an advert for a Ford the other night, that had a text message notification displayed on the dashboard. I mean, how the flipping heck can that be allowed?

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sporran [42 posts] 1 year ago
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Don't see why everyone is complaining about distractions - this is nothing really new, but it'll just mean nicer, easier-to-use interfaces for GPS watches and bike computers.

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joemmo [1146 posts] 1 year ago
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sporran wrote:

Don't see why everyone is complaining about distractions - this is nothing really new, but it'll just mean nicer, easier-to-use interfaces for GPS watches and bike computers.

Distractions for drivers are the issue.

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pedromj [5 posts] 1 year ago
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Drivers who allow gadgets to distract them are the REAL issue.

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Mike Smith [7 posts] 1 year ago
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But does it tell the feckin' time?

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Kalain [3 posts] 1 year ago
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Actually, I think any gadgets which allow anyone on the road a distraction is a problem, including us Cyclists as well.