Google connects Android dots between wearables, cars and homes

With more than a billion people actively using Android devices, Google is connecting the dots from smartwatches to the dashboard.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

SAN FRANCISCO---It might not be as flashy or in your face (literally) as Google Glass, but the Internet giant has revealed the next stops for its wearable technology roadmap, which eventually leads into the garage and then the home.

Wearing what appeared to be an LG G Watch, Android engineering director David Singleton posited during the opening Google I/O keynote the demand for wearables (such as smartwatches) is already at a fever pitch.

He cited that people reach for their "Android phones" at least 125 times per day, describing such repetition as "tedious."

Enter Android Wear, the wearables-focused Android platform previously teased for developers earlier this year.

The interface is Google Now cards-heavy, with frequent updates on everyday tasks already tapping into Google data juice, such as scheduled flight times, packages and shipments, and even detecting other Android devices around you.

Available today, Singleton asserted the Android Wear SDK allows developers to build "glanceable" notifications with a fully customizable user interface, taking advantage of control sensors and voice actions -- not to mention the billions of notifications generated by "hundreds of thousands of apps" each day.

"With just a few lines of code, you can let users know on their wrists or in their cars," said Android engineering director Patrick Brady.

The LG G Watch will also be available to order later today via Google Play. Samsung is also tapping into Android Wear with the Samsung Live smartwatch, also becoming available to purchase immediately.

Much to the dismay of the keynote audience, the Moto 360 smartwatch won't follow until later this summer.

That's followed by Android Auto, the in-car connected system for navigation, communication, and streaming music. For end users, there won't be much of a learning curve here either with an interface also depending on Google Now.

Some of the more car-friendly functions intended to promise safer navigation (for both driving and taking advantage the contextually-aware platform), Android Auto supports touch, voice and the steering wheel to control music and other features. Google Maps for Auto is actually entirely voice-enabled.

Acknowledging the myriad and fragmentation of connected car systems already on the market, the Android Auto SDK is designed to let developers build apps for the car just like they would for mobile devices.

"With just a few lines of code, you can let users know on their wrists or in their cars," said Android engineering director Patrick Brady about notifications.

Brady didn't offer a specific release date for the Auto SDK, but he said it should be ready later this year.

Google has also tapped more than 100 partners for the Open Automotive Alliance. The first cars sporting Android Auto are scheduled to roll off lots later this year too.

Moving on into the home, Google is giving the living room another shot. Google TV might not have worked out as originally hoped, so the Internet giant is realigning its resources around Android TV.

Yet, Google's latest stab at supporting the TV experience is more about providing a software framework to which both developers and TV manufacturers can adapt.

Although there is more in terms of gaming and search (also tapping into Google Now and other Android devices in proximity), the user experience is reminiscent of Google's more successful home entertainment hardware, Chromecast.

Google has evidently found more interest among manufacturers with Android TV than Google TV. Google engineering director Dave Burke noted Google is already "working with everyone from Marvell to Intel" to integrate Android TV on HDTVs in development.

But none of this means Google isn't invested in hardware anymore.

A success right out of the gates since debuting last summer, Chromecast isn't going anywhere. According to Google reps, YouTube alone sees more activity via Chromecast than any other device.

Rishi Chandra, director of product management for Chromecast, explained how the dongle device is getting bigger (in connectivity and reach, not form factor), starting with being able to connect to nearby devices that aren't necessarily on the same Wi-Fi network.

As if all of the above weren't enough, Google is also further encouraging consumers to buy into the entire Android ecosystem by positioning Chromecast as a way for users to mirror any Android device on the "biggest screens in the house," or TVs.

Google developers can tap into the upgrade via the Google Cast SDK. All Android users can expect to see access via opt-in authentication later this year. Mirroring Android devices will be available for select smartphones and tablets in the coming weeks as well.

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