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Reports of an LG-designed Google Nexus smartwatch were not that far off. Today Google announced that it has been working on a new Android-based operating system that has been designed exclusively for smartwatches. The new Android Wear operating system is a forked version of Android that is specifically for smartwatches of all shapes and sizes, and features built-in amenities for fitness, navigation, Google Now, OK Google voice commands, and full integration with Android smartphones.
Google says that it is working with major Android partners like Motorola, LG, ASUS, HTC, and Samsung on different wearable designs. One of the most exciting features is that it appears that round smartwatches are a reality and are coming soon. A few days ago I reported on a smartwatch concept that utilized a round face design that I said was the key to a successful smartwatch industry, and with today's announcement, I actually feel like the smartwatch craze may survive its trend period. Google says that boutique watch brands such as fossil will also offer smartwatches with the new Android Wear OS later this year as well.
Sony has been rumored to unveil its virtual reality headset for quite a while now, but Edge is reporting that the Japanese electronics giant will unveil its VR headset at GDC next week, during its "Driving the Future of Innovation" panel.
There's not much software for Sony's VR headset right now, so we should see developers displaying a game or two from one of Sony's first-party studios at GDC next week. Oculus VR is already on the VR game, dominating it pretty badly right now, even without a consumer headset. It should be interesting to see what Sony can deliver to the table that Valve or Oculus haven't yet.
When Fitbit first announced the recall of its Force fitness tracker, the company was doing so on a voluntary basis, but the recall became official today now that the US Consumer Product Safety Commission is handling things. Being an officially sanctioned recall means that it is now illegal to sell affected devices from this point forward, making transactions of the devices on Craig's List and Ebay illegal as well.
The recall started when dozens of users began reporting skin irritation after prolonged use. Official word seems to be that some of the chemicals used in the manufacturing of the wrist bands are allergens to many people who are in prolonged contact with the bands. About 1 million of the devices have been recalled in the US with another 28,000 being recalled in Canada. Fitbit has released an official statement on the recall which we have posted below.
The Jawbone UP24 launched way back in November, and ever since then only iOS users got to partake in the the fitness trackers full mobile experience. Today Jawbone announced that it has officially updated its UP app for Android and now allows Bluetooth syncing with Android phones. Previously the app was only compatible with the UP fitness tracker which has less features than the popular UP 24.
"We believe that helping people understand the context and meaning of their data is key in helping to make sustained behavior changes," said Travis Bogard, Jawbone's vice president of product management and strategy. "Through our investment in data science we have been able to provide personalized insights to help nudge people to meet their sleep or activity goals. Now, our entire community can enjoy the benefits of these insights in real-time."
The update also adds other features to the Android app such as better alerts, push notifications, and milestone tracking. I wrote off fitness trackers for a long time, but with a recent purchase of another fitness tracker that is on the market, I am almost completely sold on he concept and look forward to recording and tracking data every time I head out for a workout, hike, or bike ride.
In the normal civilian world people worry about things like being a glasshole while wearing their Google Glass headset. On the battlefield all most soldiers care about is getting their job done and keeping themselves and their friends safe. BAE Systems has a headset that is sort of like Google Glass that could help soldiers stay safe on the battlefield.
The system is called Q-Warrior and it fits on a helmet that helps protect the soldier. The eyepiece can give the wearer a 3D view of things that are going on outside their field of view. The idea is that the soldier could get video from a drone feed or other types of data showing what the baddies are doing as an operation unfolds.
The coolest part about the Q-Warrior headset is that the system is capable of being used as promised right now. It's not something that is a decade away from feasibility. One of the things holding deployment now is work to secure the wireless video feeds that make the headset useful. It wouldn't do to field something like this if the drone feeds could be hacked or blocked.
New information regarding a new smartwatch from ASUS has surfaced. The company is working on providing a smartwatch where the user can customize hand gestures and voice commands. ASUS CEO Jonney Shih said during an event at the National Taiwan University,"There would be more natural user interfaces such as voice or movement controls, although more breakthroughs are needed in these areas."
Mr. Shih also mentioned that the new smartphone will be launched with 'attractive pricing'.
It was confirmed by Sundar Pichar, the SVP of Android, Chrome and Apps for Google that the company will be releasing a software development kit specifically to be used with wearable devices within the next two weeks. The company requires a common set of protocols to make it easier for sensors to connect with the Android OS.
By doing so, it will enable developers to create multiple types of wearable devices. The SDK should enable the developers to make wearable devices even for games and fitness trackers.
EA's still fresh CEO Andrew Wilson has talked about the potential for virtual reality, where he has talked about using VR as a possible fourth "modality" of gaming.
Wilson notes three types of play styles right now: "Lean Back" experiences, where a player is using a home entertainment system. "Lean In" is where the player is using either a console or PC for first-person shooters, where they're physically leaning in and concentrating on the game, and "Lean Over" which is where the player is using either a smartphone or tablet.
Wilson sees VR as the "fourth" way of playing, citing it as "Get In", where a gamer would use headsets or "some hologram that evolves out of your living room floor." This isn't a full confirmation that EA is supporting VR in any form, but it's great to see them talking about it. We've seen Oculus VR secure EA's former Senior VP as its new Head of Worldwide Publishing.
It's no secret that I am not a big fan of smartwatches, and that I often refer to them as nothing more than a passing fad. One concept artist has all but changed my mind though. The the concept smartwatch he recently designed is both beautiful and brilliant in both form and function.
Gabor Balogh posted his design up on Adobe's Behance social network for designers, and it caught the eye of the entire tech world. The design is based off of the Havanna Timepiece from Triwa, and replaces its face-plate with a concept circular display. While new concept smartwatch designs pop up every day, Balogh's ditches the common square and bulky wrist-piece for a sleek and classical, low-profile design with a modern UI that I would be proud to wear every day.
The way it works with most wearable devices today is that you simply buy one of a few available models and go on about your day. If down the road you decide you need more features, you need to buy a new smartwatch. A group from the UK is working on a slick modular smartwatch that was inspired by Google's Project Ara.
I think this is a very cool idea. The way the product works is that the user can choose from a number of blocks that contain sensors inside. These blocks let you start with a basic configuration and then add new sensors as your needs change.
The sensors appear to be part of the links in the bracelet of the watch. They connect simply using something akin to headphone ports you would see on your PC or smartphone. This would allow you to customize the smartwatch to whatever you will be doing that day.