Why Voice Input is Key for Always-On Devices

3027846-inline-i-2-google-watchA while back I wrote a blogpost for Cisco on what we need to achieve to make wearable computing work. One of the things I said was that voice input needs to get a lot better for useful interactions with these types of devices. If wearables can speak our language and learn from our behavior, they can be of much more help to us, especially since all currently conceivable wearable devices involve limited screen space. With no space for haptic input, we need to be able to have a ‘conversation’ with these devices. Voice and predictive analytics together should be the main ingredients for wearable computing, and as of now, they are not yet advanced enough.

Enter Android Wear.

Last week Google released the beta version for the wearable version of Android simply called Wear. And for the first time thus far I actually got a feeling that smartwatches could actually get mainstream adoption. Because what Google showed off, was stand alone functionally specifically designed for a watch. Meaningful information is just there, ready to be glanced at on a watch. Not just shifting notifications from one screen to another.

Yes, this feeling is also based on the fact that Google and the Android platform might be the most suitable combination to get wearables into the mainstream, but also because they seem to nail the combination of voice input, a long side simple gestural input and Google Now functionality. In case you haven’t seen it, check out this video called Information that moves with you.

Since these devices have a always-on mode, they need to be able to listen and understand. Users need to be able to ask questions in natural language, in this case prefaced by “OK Google,” and get a reply. Especially because, if done right, a smartwatch consists mostly of a passive interface for the user, that has information available at a glance or when asked for.

So it’s up to developers to create these experiences. But even if you’re not a developer you might want to download and install the developer preview of Android Wear. It can run an emulator to simulate an Android Wear smartwatch to see how it works.

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