Google just announced a 'preview SDK' for its new Android wearables effort, and if we take everything that appears in two YouTube videos at face value, the Google Now smartwatch – now confirmed as a real shipping product by LG – will be a game-changing addition to the wearables space.
The LG wearable will be called G Watch, and is described by the company as a "low barrier to entry for developers" and will "offer the best Google experience for users."
In two videos (one showing the benefits for the aspriational consumer above and the other talking directly to developers below) and a blog post, Google portrays Android Wear, a new OS platform that delivers all of Google Now's contextual information services right to your wrist. A man confirms a taxi pickup, directly on his smartwatch. Another gets a meeting alert – along with a notification that his colleague will be late. A surfer receives a jellyfish warning via her device, and beckons her pals to surf at another beach. A man receives that prescient '35 mins to work' notification that so many Android users are familiar with, just as he's pouring his morning coffee in the kitchen, and all without glancing at his phone.
It's the "Google Now" smartwatch dream that Google absolutely needs to deliver, and it looks absolutely spectacular despite being set in an idealised authentic world of fixies and people dancing to Chromeo's Jealous (I Ain't Worth It) in the queue at the DMV. As portrayed in the video, the UI is devoid of fussy menu items. It's just a simple, clean, Google Now card interface. Information pops up automatically, responding to time and location signals.
Now, I'm not reassured by the fact that watches in the video are portrayed with circular displays. No display manufacturer has yet to deliver a mass-market round display, so the frequent portrayal of these screens in Google's assets suggest we're looking at concept videos, much like the original Google Glass video. Still, even if Android Wear only appears on rectangular screens, its basic Google Now card interface could make all existing smartwatch UI efforts obsolete.
Alex Faaborg, an Android designer, explains the Android Wear concept in the video above: "We designed an entirely new UI designed specifically for this form factor, and it's really based around voice and contextual information that's reactive to your surroundings," he says. "We put a lot of thought into how simple this has to be. It has to be incredibly fast, incredibly glanceable. There's really only two components: information that's most relevant to you, and the ability to speak to it and do a quick command."
The developer preview of the Android Wear SDK is available now.