Google's plans for wearables, cars and health take shape

Google’s plans for wearables, cars and health take shape

26 JUN 2014

Google unveiled a number of new products that will bring the Android OS to new screens and devices at its seventh annual Google I/O developer conference.

Speaking on stage, Sundar Pichai, SVP for Android, Chrome & Apps, said there are now one billion people around the world using an Android device, adding that with the forthcoming ‘L’ version of Android, Google is “building a vertically integrated product”.

“Users increasingly are living in a multiscreen world. We want to work to create a seamless experience across all these connected devices,” he added.

The first devices to use Google’s wearable platform, Android Wear, were unveiled with the LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live, now available via Google Play. The Moto 360 from Motorola (which is the first smart watch to use Android Wear’s round UI) is set for launch later in the summer.

Android Wear allows users to interact with their apps and notifications on their smart watch by saying ‘OK Google’ to ask questions and complete tasks, as well as via the touch screen.

Google also gave details about its Android Auto in-car platform at the event, the result of the company’s work with the Open Automotive Alliance, which was formed in January.

By connecting an Android smartphone to Android Auto, users can access turn-by-turn navigation from Google Maps, curated playlists and radio stations through Play Music, voice search, and reminders from Google Now. Android Auto will start to be seen in cars later in 2014.

Drivers and passengers can control functions through the car’s physical controls or voice recognition, the latter of which Pichai said is a major element in the next version of Android.

“We want the experience to be voice-enabled. We are building the most advanced voice recognition infrastructure in the world and we want to help users interact with computing devices in an intuitive way,” he noted.

Google joined Apple and Samsung in offering a health-focused technology platform. Google Fit provides a single set of APIs to help users keeps track of health and fitness data on smart watches and other mobile devices.

“Fit takes away the complexity of handling multiple sources, giving a unified view of a user’s fitness activity,” explained Google Play product manager Ellie Powers.

Google also revealed its Android TV offering, which will feature in a range of TVs launched later this year and be available via a set-top box. It enables voice search for live TV, films on Google Play or YouTube videos and supports Android games that have been optimised for TV.

The final big news announcement was the Android One programme, focusing on the development of smartphones for emerging markets. Google is working on hardware reference platforms, with partner companies due to launch a range of devices priced at less than $100 in India in the autumn.

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Tim Ferguson

Tim joined Mobile World Live in August 2011 and works across all channels, with a particular focus on apps. He came to the GSMA with five years of tech journalism experience, having started his career as a reporter... More

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