Google is preparing to jump head-first into the nascent market for wearable devices, with a new Android software development kit (SDK) that will give developers the tools to build applications for a wide range of wearable devices that would run on Android.
The plans are so far along that the new SDK will be released in about two weeks, according to a March 9 report by The Wall Street Journal, which quoted Google executive Sundar Pichai, who made the comments at the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas.
“Pichai said that Google is releasing its Android software developer kit for wearable devices well before actual devices hit the market so that the company gets ‘plenty of feedback’ first,” the paper reported.
The move is aimed at laying the groundwork for smartwatches running on Android, as well as for other devices that are still in the imaginations of developers. “Smartwatches are among the first wearable computing devices, but Pichai said that Google hopes its software platform will help developers create many types of wearable devices,” The Journal reported. “He threw out the possibility that one day, Google’s software would be used in a ‘smart jacket’ with sensors.”
As more companies build wearable devices, Google would love to see them use Android as the operating system.
Google has been experimenting quite a bit with wearable technologies such as its Google Glass devices, which give wearers the ability to use a computer and a wide range of apps during their daily lives as they commute, eat, relax and work.
In February, Virgin Atlantic Airways began a test of Google Glass to see how it and similar wearable computing innovations could help the airline assist passengers from their arrival at an airport through boarding and departure, and even with their in-flight experiences. The airline’s six-week-long Google Glass pilot project has been visible to passengers as they arrive at London Heathrow airport, where concierge staff in the airline’s Upper Class Wing are using Google Glass and other wearable technology to ramp up their customer service efforts.
After the pilot testing is completed, the airline will review the experiment to see if it is something it would like to expand in the future.
Virgin’s testing with Glass came on the heels of a related experiment with Glass by the New York Police Department, which began trials in December to see how the devices could be used in police work. The devices have not yet been deployed in any actual field or patrol operations, but reviews are being done to see how they may be used in the future, according to the department. The news that the NYPD is investigating possible uses for Google Glass is intriguing on its face, particularly because of several high-profile incidents involving the digital eyewear in the last six months.
Google Glass has been a topic of conversation among techies since news of it first arrived in 2012. The first Google Glass units began shipping in April 2013 to developers who signed up at the June 2012 Google I/O conference to buy an early set for $1,500 for testing and development; it was the hit of the conference. Google also then began shipping Glass units to lucky users who were selected in the #ifihadglass contest for the opportunity to buy their own early versions of Glass.
Each Google Glass device includes adjustable nose pads and a high-resolution display that Google said is the equivalent of a 25-inch high-definition screen from 8 feet away. The glasses also feature a built-in camera that takes 5-megapixel photos and video at 720p. Audio is delivered to wearers through their bones, using bone-conduction transducers.
At the same time, Google Glass is gaining acceptance in the marketplace, even before its official launch to consumers, which is expected sometime this year. In January 2014, Google announced a deal with eyewear and vision insurer VSP Global, which will cover a portion of Google Glass frames and prescription lenses for its insurance customers.