2013-11-21

Co.Labs

The Challenge Of Developing Apps For Wearable Computing

It's not easy to develop apps for Google Glass and other wearable computing platforms; developers have to learn some new tricks.



By all accounts, developers are still learning how to use Google Glass. The Glass Development Kit is expected to be unveiled shortly and will build on the Android toolkits that a small but growing developer community is learning their way around the platform. But wearable computer posits unique challenges for software creation—how do you create apps for a wearable computer that lacks a mouse, a keyboard, and a touchscreen? How do you create programs for a hybrid of glasses and a computer that depends on a voice interface and a single button? It creates challenges.

Developer Josh Fox is expecting there will be a job market for wearable computer developers and engineers. His job board for software engineers, Five Year Itch, is branching out into listing wearable computer development jobs... and are expecting enough wearable computing products to support a Google Glass Developers job listings webapp. But one of the problem software firms are encountering is that Glass developers need a unique skill set.

In a conversation with Co.Labs, Fox said that for Glass developers, “Deep UI abilities, to the point that they can invent completely new modes of interaction, and make them usable and enjoyable (are needed). The first wearable-computing developers won't be able to rely on time-tested standards for user interaction, as developers for desktop and mobile apps can do.” He also added in an email to Co.Labs that developers will face an additional challenge; currently they can only “use the web-based “Mirror API” to send notifications to Google Glass, but there’s still no direct API access to the Android operating system and the hardware behind it”—something the new Glass Development Kit will change.

One early Glass adopter is Kyle Samani, CEO of a Texas-based startup called Pristine that develops wearable computing apps for hospitals and healthcare. Pristine, whose HIPAA-compliant apps allow surgeons to bring upstreaming video and electronic medical records during surgery, is basing their moneymaking plan around Glass as a work tool. Samani told Co.Labs that “Glass presents incredible opportunities in healthcare. Most people in the health IT space are trying to deliver information onto the Glass screen—taking advantage of hands free, heads up display, and “friction free” characteristics. At Pristine, we look at Glass as a communications tool. In ten years, we’re going to look back and wonder how medical providers ever worked without having-hands free, wireless audio, video, and textual communications at all times.” The company's primary product, Pristine EyeSight, is a communications tool aimed at medical professionals.

Until developers have a bigger idea of what the Glass Development Kit entails, its unlikely that we'll have a full idea of just
what the platform is capable of. While the novelty is certainly there, it's an open question how it will actually be used. Google currently offers design suggestions that are relatively open-ended. Glass shows great potential for medicine, logistics, retail, and several other industries... but the only question is how, exactly, it will be used. Developers, its time to get creative.

[Image: Flickr user Ted Eytan]






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2 Comments

  • Ibrar

    Developer Josh Fox is expecting there will be a job market for wearable computer developers and engineers.