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Today Motorola showed off its upcoming smart watch, the Moto 360, which uses Google’s new version of its Android software for wearable devices, Android Wear. Though I haven’t yet seen the Moto 360 in person, I’m intrigued by the first images released and Motorola’s description of how the company approached building a smart watch, which included both old and new elements.

Motorola says it committed to keeping the overall shape and look of a traditional watch, with a circular face mostly free of mechanical buttons, and the device comes in numerous styles. At the same time it offers the Google Now assistant app and alerts when e-mails, calls, and social-network updates come in.

It actually sounds a bit like the kind of smart watch I was yearning for when I examined several of them last year (see “So Far, Smart Watches Are Pretty Dumb”)–good-looking, easy to read, and, if Google Now works as it does on a smartphone, easy to interact with via voice and capable of offering intelligent alerts. My main concerns would be how well the device can handle background noise that might prevent it from properly recognizing your words, and whether there are other ways to navigate the device besides issuing verbal commands.

We’ll find out more details tomorrow when Motorola hosts a Google+ hangout with the Moto 360’s head designer, Jim Wicks. You can register for the hangout, too, if you’re interested.

Google detailed Android Wear in a separate post on its own blog today. We first heard about the project from Sundar Pichai, Google’s Android head, on March 9 at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas (see “New SDK Shows Google Really Wants to Get on Your Body”). Google says it will let developers integrate Android applications and Google Now into all kinds of wearable devices (smart watches being just the first category) and will also provide the ability to control gadgets beyond your smartphone (such as your TV) from your wearable device.

In addition to Motorola–which Google is in the process of selling to Lenovo–Google says it’s working with companies including Asus, HTC, LG, Samsung, Intel, Qualcomm, and Fossil Group (which worked on an ill-fated smart watch with Microsoft 10 years ago) to release Android Wear smart watches this year.

In addition to clever design work and improvements in components, I have a feeling Android Wear may help deliver some of the major pieces needed to bring smart watches closer to the mainstream. We’ll get a better sense of that in the near future, as Motorola says Moto 360 will be available this summer.

 

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