Google today announced a modest update to the Android Wear platform and with it a new API. The update adds interactive watch faces, Google Translate, and WiFi to select wearables. Here's the skinny.
First up, interactive watch faces. Android Wear 1.3.0 adds support for watch faces that do far more than tell the time. Thanks to the new API, developers can add tap detection to their watch face, which can be put to use in delivering secondary information. Google believes this will give developers more chances to individualize their Android Wear apps while also making them more useful to watch wearers.
In order to show off some of the possibilities afforded by the new API, Google teamed up with a handful of app developers, including Bit, Under Armour, and Together. In Bit's watch face, for example, users can select to view the weather, unread mail, or upcoming meetings by tapping on the weather complication. Under Armour's new-and-improved watch face lets fitness hounds see their step count, calories burned, and distance traveled all with a tap.
Google explains that the API lets the watch face register taps as well as X,Y coordinates. Swipes within Android Wear watch faces are not supported, as they are needed by the user interface at large. Google says it is as simple as adding a few lines of code to create more engaging watch faces.
More documentaion about the Interactive Watch Face API is available here.
The improved version of Android Wear also brings some interesting and fun Google Translate powers to smartwatches. With it, users can speak into their wearable and have the words translated into one of 44 different languages. What's more, users can then flick their wrist toward a second party who can read the translated text and then respond verbally. When the wearer flicks their wrist back towards themselves. Translate then translates the language back to the one first spoken for the wearer to see. This will be a great feature for travelers.
Android Wear 1.3.0 also brings WiFi support to the LG G Watch R. LG's second-gen wearable was left out of the WiFi update earlier this year, and it now appears that Google is ready to give the watch more connectivity options. Moving forward, owners of the LG G Watch R will be able to access some functions when away from their phone as long as they are connected to a WiFi network.
Google said it will begin pushing the system update to existing Android Wear devices over the coming weeks. It may take a while before all devices see the new code.
Google warns developers that touch support will only function on devices with the updated operating system. In other words, developers should wait to publish updated apps until after the OTA reaches most Android wearables. Google said it will give developers the "all clear" signal shortly.