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

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs