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Tips for Programmers Who Develop Apps for Wearables

The adoption of wearables is slower than tablets and smartphones, but these devices are quickly becoming valued assets for gadget geeks. Wearables are small computer devices that users wear such as Google Glass and smart watches. For developers, design is much different than standard mobile devices. User input and usability are completely different with wearables, and developers should be aware of the changes in order for them to make useful applications.
 
Programming for Voice Recognition
 
Even though voice recognition software has been around for years, developers always focused more on keyboard and mouse input years ago. With wearable development, your apps must recognize voice commands. Let's take Google Glass as an example. The user wears the mini-computer as glasses. There is no keyboard or mouse, and the minor hand input is reduced to the user's right hand finger. This makes input design much different when creating apps.
 
The device's API handles most of the recognition, but the programmer must create apps that take short commands with little input. With wearables, developers can't create text boxes, pop-ups, forms, buttons, and other standard website elements. The focus is on voice commands, and this can be difficult to design for new wearable app developers.
 
Short, Quick Output
 
Wearables aren't made for long web pages of text output. Instead, programmers have limitations on the output shown to the user. Wearables use "slides" as viewable output. For instance, with Google Glass, each slide should only have a few words as output for the user. Google Glass' eye crystal sits right above the eye. Try looking up for a long period of time without tilting your head. Eventually, your eye muscle strains and it hurts. An app's output should be short phrases that take a quick second to read. It's even better if output is audio.
 
Smart watch users are a different demographic than Google Glass wearers, but the same concept applies. Smart watch users are usually sports enthusiasts or people on-the-run, so they just want the weather, stock numbers or basic time functionality. You don't want to create output that's several paragraphs of information for a smart watch user to read.
 
Smaller Viewer Screens
 
Tablet and smartphone screens continue to increase in size, but wearables have extremely small screens. Google Glass has a small eye crystal. A smart watch viewable area is slightly larger than the average face of a watch. The font must be much larger than you would use for even a small smart phone. Large, standout fonts are what you need with wearable app technology.
 
New API
 
Learning a new app language is fun, but you'll also need to work with a new API. For instance, Google Glass has an API called "Mirror." It's a RESTful API, so most developers will have no problem acclimating to the new requirements. It's still a bit of a hassle to learn another API just to stay relevant in the industry.
 
These are a few issues to consider when you decide to create wearable apps. These devices are still new, so they haven't been adopted entirely by the programming community. Smartphones weren't initially adopted either, but now apps are an integral part of revenue for businesses. If you keep up with technology, you'll always stay relevant in the development industry.

Photo credit: Riebart via Foter.com / CC BY

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