The fast-growing wearables market has thus far evolved mainly organically as an extension to the mobile mainstream.
But Google has changed that by announcing Android Wear, which it describes as “a project that extends Android to wearables”. And for the time being, wearables means smartwatches.
If that sounds a little vague, it's because Google has only outlined Android Wear in the most basic terms. Loosely speaking, it's a version of Android aimed specifically at wearables, giving developers tools to build and adapt apps specifically for smartwatches within the broader Android ecosystem.
The system will tap into Google Now to give users access to location-sensitive information with “a glance or a spoken word” – be it health and fitness-related services, travel information or updates from your favourite news, messaging and social media apps.
In other words, get used to saying “OK Google” to your wrist.
For now Android Wear is only available as a developer preview, with a full SDK – together with the first actual Android Wear smartwatches – only set to emerge later this year.
But Google is clearly putting plenty of muscle behind the project – it says it's “already working with several consumer electronics manufacturers, including Asus, HTC, LG, Motorola and Samsung; chip makers Broadcom, Imagination, Intel, Mediatek and Qualcomm; and fashion brands like the Fossil Group to bring you watches powered by Android Wear later this year”.