News / Science & Technology

App Developers See Wearable Devices as Next Big Thing

FILE - Google founder Sergey Brin (L) adjusts a pair of Project Glass glasses on designer Diane von Furstenberg before the rehearsal for von Furstenberg's Spring/Summer 2013 collection show during New York Fashion Week.
FILE - Google founder Sergey Brin (L) adjusts a pair of Project Glass glasses on designer Diane von Furstenberg before the rehearsal for von Furstenberg's Spring/Summer 2013 collection show during New York Fashion Week.
Reuters
Wearable computers like Google Glass and the Samsung Galaxy Gear watch may not have caught fire yet, but that hasn't stopped mobile game developers from rushing to create apps for the new devices, eager to seize what they hope is the next big moment in consumer technology.
 
Niccolo DeMasi,  the CEO of mobile games maker Glu Mobile , compares the potential of wearables to that of Apple Inc's iPhone launch in 2007 - an event that was the catalyst to create much of the mobile app world that exists now.
 
DeMasi and others are betting that by developing compelling apps designed with the wearables' special features in mind, they can create overwhelming demand for the products.
 
“A whole new app ecosystem is going to be born,” said Shawn Hardin, chief executive officer of Mind Pirate, which will release “Global Food Fight,” its first game for Google Glass,  this month. “Those who are going to make that happen in a big way are going to be valuable companies because of it, and those who wait too late won't be a part of it.”
 
The market for mobile game apps is expected to grow to $17 billion this year from just $6 billion in 2010, analysts said, and wearables could fuel growth in the years to come.
 
An array of new smartwatches and devices like fitness tracker Fitbit will go on display this week at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, heralding a potential breakthrough for the devices in 2014.
 
Google Glass is expected to launch broadly sometime this year. So far, its user-testing version has only been available at a $1,500 price to about 15,000 developers and consumers who registered to be part of its early adopter program.
 
Galaxy Gear smartwatches from Samsung have garnered mixed reviews since their September launch, and consumers have not warmed to them yet.
 
Despite the slow start, Juniper Research expects more than 130 million smart wearable devices will ship by 2018. Moreover, global shipments of wearable “smart glasses” alone will reach 10 million each year by 2018, compared with an estimated 87,000 in 2013, according to the research firm.
 
Wearable computing devices basically function as mini-computers, mainly strapped on a user's wrist or face, though they may end up being worn on other parts of the body, too. In developing apps for them, programmers will focus on their voice-command features as well as GPS, gyroscope, compass and WiFi capabilities. Apps for more conventional mobile devices, by contrast, mostly use their touch-screen interface.
 
Fun & games
 
Glu wanted to get a jump on its rivals by creating a word puzzle game called “Spellista” for the prototype of Google Inc's Glass.
 
Because Glass allows hands-free experiences, Spellista's gameplay relies on voice commands and head movements that work with the device's gyroscope. With voice commands, a gamer can snap pictures on its 5-megapixel camera and create word puzzles to share with friends.
 
Another distinct feature of Glass is how it transmits sound. With Spellista, a user hears the game's tutorial through sound vibrations traveling through the skull behind the ear rather than traditional speakers. That lets the user simultaneously hear ambient sound.
 
Over 2,000 developers, including Glu, have access to the programming code and tools needed to design apps for Glass.
 
With Mind Pirate's app, “Global Food Fight,” the Silicon Valley startup wants to demonstrate that wearable devices are well-suited for “micro-engagement” - or 30- to 90-second game sessions.
 
The three-dimensional app is designed for multiple players. Gamers can use head movements and taps on the Glass touchpad to virtually hurl tomatoes or gooey pies at one another and build obstacle courses to help them dodge hits.
 
“You could sit on a train and launch a food fight using voice commands, and you could be playing with multiple people” who could be virtually anywhere, Hardin explained.
 
Mind Pirate has set up an incubator program, providing resources to four developers to work on games and apps for Glass and other wearable computing devices in partnership with the Canadian Film Center, a Toronto-based film training institute.
 
Timothy Jordan, senior developer advocate for Google Glass, said the game concepts that developers come up with need to be path-breaking.
 
“If something works well on another platform and you stamp it on Glass, you're doing it wrong,” he said.
 
Games and apps have often popularized new hardware, helping to familiarize consumers with the technology. Rovio's Angry Birds demonstrated the iPhone's easy swipe and touch features, and the card game Solitaire made using the mouse on Microsoft Corp's Windows operating software seem intuitive.
 
“It's early days in wearables, but I would be unsurprised if 2017 to 2027 turns out to be a great 10-year wave for all wearable computing, whether it's watches or something like Glass,” DeMasi said.
 
Companies such as Qualcomm Inc and Fitbit will use the Consumer Electronics Show to showcase wearable fitness trackers and smartwatches, in addition to single- and binocular-lens “glasses.”
 
“There'll be a lot of competitive offerings - and I think some of these are going to be really, really well-suited for new kinds of entertainment and gameplay,” Hardin said, without providing details.
 
To be sure, not all developers think wearable devices are destined for glory any time soon. There are plenty of questions over the price point, limited battery life and other concerns.
 
Misha Lyalin, CEO of ZeptoLab, which created the hit mobile game “Cut the Rope,” says the category is mostly an R&D project for most game developers at this stage.
 
“In order for you to succeed as a developer, you have to have a platform that will be massive,” Lyalin said. “It's too early to place a bet on.”
 
Venture capitalists are mostly taking a wait-and-see approach, though some want to make sure they are in a solid position, should the devices take off. Bessemer Ventures and Signia Venture Partners, for example, together have invested $2.5 million in Hardin's Mind Pirate.
 
Glass has not yet emerged as a mass consumer platform, said Jeremy Liew, managing director of Lightspeed Venture Partners, which joined some other investors to put a total of about $1 million into Lark, a Silicon Valley startup that makes a smart wristband and an app to track sleep and exercise patterns.
 
“But if it becomes one, that next new billion-dollar company will be built on top of it, and that's why it's worth paying attention to,” Liew said.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs