Google has officially thrown its hat into the smartwatch ring, announcing the impending launch of a new Android fork dubbed Android Wear and launch devices from partners Motorola and LG.
The concept of having a watch that does more than tell the time isn't a new one. From the calculator watch craze of the 90s through to unsuccessful attempts by companies like Timex, Fossil, Palm and Microsoft to replace the personal digital assistant - now supplanted by the smartphone - with a wrist-borne equivalent, history is littered with failures. Recently, however, technology has progressed to the point where it's just about possible to have a truly smart device on your wrist - as proven by the success of the Pebble Kickstarter project and renewed interest from companies like Sony and Samsung.
Now, Google has confirmed rumours that it too is looking to the smartwatch market with avarice, announcing a fork of its Linux-based Android operating system that will form the heart of a new generation of wearables. Dubbed Android Wear - for obvious reasons - the operating system is specifically tailored to bring a subset of Android functionality to the small screens required of a wristwatch. As well as the ability to tell the time, Android Wear devices will function as sports watches with full GPS-based tracking, timing and mapping, and can connect to Android smartphones and tablets to forward notifications from applications like email clients, social networking packages and the dialler.
Its biggest feature, however, comes from its integration with Google Now. Like the implementation in the latest Android 4.4 KitKat build, Google Now on Android Wear is voice-activated: simply say 'OK, Google' and the system will perform actions - like sending a text message, launching an app or setting a calendar entry - or web searches based on your vocal instructions, with the results relayed on the smartwatch's display.
Google has promised devices from numerous partner companies including Fossil, which is clearly not put off by its previous failures to enter the smartwatch market in partnership with Palm and Microsoft, and launch devices from Motorola and LG dubbed the Moto 360 and G Watch respectively. Both devices are expected to launch in the second quarter of this year, but pricing and formal availability are not yet provided. Intel has also indicated that it is working with Google on Android Wear, suggesting that at least one of the impending devices is powered by the company's latest Quark processor.
If you're curious as to the platform's capabilities in the meantime Google has released a teaser video based on the Moto G, reproduced below.