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

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles 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.
China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Lawi
X
William Ide
October 20, 2014 10:23 AM
China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Nigeria Agrees to Cease-Fire With Boko Haram

Islamist militant group Boko Haram and the Nigerian government have agreed to a cease-fire. The Nigerian government issued an order Friday, telling all military chiefs "to comply with the cease-fire agreement in all theaters of operations. Why now and the significance of the agreement are questions on some people’s minds. VOA's Mariama Diallo reports.
Video

Video Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

The offensive by Islamic State militants against the northern Syrian city of Kobani has caused hundreds of thousands of residents to flee to Turkey. They receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from the town of Suruc a few kilometers from the border.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.

All About America

AppleAndroid