A lot has been said recently about the prospects of wearable technology, with many commentators tipping it to be one of the biggest trends of 2014. But outside of the tech bubble, takeup so far of the first generation of solutions has been less than impressive.
Samsung's first effort at a smartwatch, the Galaxy Gear, was hampered by the need to be paired with a limited number of devices, an uninspiring range of applications and a battery life so short you almost needed to walk around with a car battery under your arm to get anything useful out of it. Meanwhile, Google's Glass spectacles have some serious style issues, as well as making privacy advocates nervous (but then again, what doesn't these days?).
Still, as any technology evolves, you can expect these teething troubles to be ironed out, and wearables is looking like no expectation. Already, the Galaxy Gear 2 promises to rectify some of the most common complaints about the first model, and this week, Google took the jump into the smartwatch arena with the unveiling of its Android Wear project, which aims to bring the world's most popular mobile operating screen to your wrist.
The next big thing?
At the moment, we don't have much to go on as to how Android Wear will function in the real world, apart from the suitably dramatic and inspiring promotional video. But this does show some of the uses Google envisages for the technology – from the surfer getting the latest updates on conditions to the busy father finding out how long his commute is likely to be, all with just a glance at their wristwatch.
What this suggests is a close integration with the Google Now feature found on the latest smartphones and tablets, which aims to understand what's important to its users and deliver them up-to-date, relevant information before even being asked.
Everything you need?
In a blog post introducing Android Wear, Google exec Sundar Pichai said: "The wide variety of Android applications means you'll receive the latest posts and updates from your favorite social apps, chats from your preferred messaging apps, notifications from shopping, news and photography apps, and more."
This could be the key to the success of Android wearables as – like the smartphone version – one of its key selling points is its open nature. This lets developers come up with apps for almost any scenario imaginable and is also one of the reasons why you can find Android on everything from a sub-£100 starter phone all the way up to top-of-the-line smartphones and tablets aimed at power users.
And if this openness is transferred to the wearables market, who knows what creative solutions people will be able to think up?
What about the hardware?
Along with the introduction to the OS, we also found out a little about some of the first devices that will feature Android Wear. These include smartwatches from LG and Motorola, which perhaps shouldn't come as a surprise, as Google has previously collaborated with LG on hardware such as its Nexus 5 smartphone, while Motorola was owned by Google until its recent sale to Chinese tech giant Lenovo.
LG's effort, called the G Watch, is scheduled for launch in the second quarter of 2014, with the company promising to provide a low barrier of entry to developers and offer users "the best Google experience".
Motorola's Moto 360 watch is also aiming for a summer launch, with it showing off a stylish design consisting of a round face and premium materials, with a digital clock face display when a user isn't engaging with its apps. This means any observer will be hard-pressed to spot the difference between the high-tech design and a traditional watch – perfect for anyone who's put off by the chunky look of some of the current crop of gadgets.
Other partners Google has signed up for the project include electronics manufacturers HTC, Asus and Samsung, chipmakers Intel and Qualcomm and fashion brands such as Fossil, so users can expect a huge range of options from their Android smartwatch in the coming years.
As Pichai noted: "We're only at the beginning; we've barely scratched the surface of what's possible with mobile technology."