July 09--SAN FRANCISCO -- There will be many new features to get used to as consumers begin to transition to internet-connected watches and eyeglasses. One of the big changes will be getting used to having information delivered before you even ask for it.
The point is to provide users with the information they need, and not with extras that will distract them or waste time. As the devices become wearable, the part that feels like a computer will slip ever further into the background.
"Less is more," says Google developer Timothy Jordan, presenting some of the company's devices as the Google I/O developer conference.
The first smart watches to hit the market a few years ago often tried to emulate smartphones, filling a screen with apps. But that meant tiny icons and a lot of scrolling through pages on a tiny screen to find what was needed.
But Google had been gathering data from its Google Glass project -- an internet-ready set of eyeglasses -- learning how to maximize space for information on a tiny screen with its Android Wear operating system.
That means mini pop-up messages with bright colours and short bursts of information like "14,398 steps" or "36 minutes until you're home."
Meshing their goals with Android Wear has been a challenge.
"You can only do one thing at a time, you only see one thing at a time," said designer Bob Ryskamp.
If a message pops in, it's better to show a photo of its sender rather than expecting the recipient to read tiny text to make out the name.
The eventual goal will be to only push the information that is really needed to the user, says Google designer Emmet Connolly.
"The user shouldn't type in what he wants. Instead, we'll show him what he needs."
That means packing the devices with sensors, sensing the user's location and whether they're moving or standing still.
"When you jog, the stopwatch could pop up." Other alerts could depend on the date or proximity to other devices.
"We should use every possible signal for targeted information."
These micro-interactions -- providing a simple answer instead of an annoying list of options -- could soon rub off onto other areas of technology, say Google's designers.
During the conference, the gadgets weren't in the focus, but rather new apps designed to provide specialized information based on what you're doing, whether it be improving your basketball throw or golf stroke or providing information about sights while you're touring a city.
Not everyone is convinced.
"They're trying to push through the idea here that the watch will become a central interaction point. I don't think that's right," said Brian Blau, an analyst with Gartner visiting the conference. "We think that, for the foreseeable future, it's going to remain a peripheral device.
"Maybe they're trying to push the smart watch into a role that it can't fill."
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