By: Joe Robbins, Daden Developer
For our recent Daden U-day, I decided to learn about Android Wear, Google's operating system for smart-watches and other wearable technology. The philosophy behind Wear is to provide users with quick, convenient access to the most important information and functionality from their smart-phone applications. Wear apps should therefore be viewed as extensions of their smart-phone counterparts, not as a replacement for them.
Having recently got my hands on a Moto 360 (2nd Generation) smart-watch, and given the future potential of the platform for extending Daden's own applications, I thought it would be worthwhile getting to grips with how to develop apps for Wear.
As the day began, I downloaded and installed Google's own development environment, Android Studio, along with all the necessary packages to develop for wearables. Following this I had to configure my devices to allow my own apps to run on them. Android wear works by installing an application on a smartphone or tablet, and then this device will communicate with the wearable.
The first task I set myself was to build a simple, “Hello World”, app and get it to run on my Moto 360. This proved difficult, since I needed to find and install a specific driver for my smart-phone in order to install my own applications on there. However, once I found out about this, it was fairly straightforward to launch my “Hello World” program on the watch.
I then tried my hand at creating my own notifications, so I built a simple app on the phone that featured a single button, which once pressed, fired off a notification that could be viewed on the watch.
After this, I tried to build up more complex demo apps, but soon found that the debugging experience provided by Android Studio was somewhat less than optimal (perhaps Visual Studio had spoiled me), but I struggled to pinpoint the reason that my applications weren't running.
I spent the rest of the day watching a series of videos published by Google themselves, describing the design principles that should be followed when making a wearable application. This was very insightful and I learned a lot of important design guidelines that I would follow if I delve further into developing for this platform.
Since wearables make use of much smaller screens than a more traditional smart-phone and have more limited input mechanisms, building an Android Wear app brings with it new design challenges. The foremost of which is having to contend with the limited real-estate on screen. The designer therefore has to make sure that they are only presenting the most important information at any time, these devices are not intended for extended periods of use, rather, the user should be able to glance at them and see the information they need already waiting for them.
The application can detect the type of wearable face and optimise content accordingly.
In conclusion, despite teething problems, developing for Android Wear is an area that shows great potential, when utilised appropriately. I will continue to follow the development of the operating system as it continues to mature. It was encouraging to see how Google has built a micro-philosophy around how this new technology should be designed for. Personally, I look forward to the day that a Daden project gives me the opportunity to create something more substantial on this exciting young platform.