All posts by Daniel Davies

Google wants to make smartwatches impressive in their own right

Google has announced a major upgrade to its Android Wear platform which is designed to make smart watches attractive propositions in their own right, rather than appendages to other devices like smartphones.

Engineering director for Android Wear  David Singleton announced at Google I/O 2016 that Android Wear 2.0 is being launched to take what smartwatches already do well – fitness tracking and notifications – and improve upon those services.

With fitness, Google is improving its Google Fit platform’s automatic activity recognition, allowing apps to combine information and, by making Android Wear independent of other devices, ensuring that it doesn’t need to be tethered to a smartphone.

“When you want to go for a run you can just go with the watch you’re already wearing. No need to strap your phone in an awkward arm band, and, thanks to the hardware sensors in your watch and automatic activity recognition, apps like Strava will start tracking your time and distance when you start running,” said Singleton. “If you enjoy music while you’re working out you can launch Spotify right from your watchface.”

Images courtesy of Android. Featured image courtesy of By LG Electronics -

Images courtesy of Android. Featured image courtesy of LG Electronics 

As well as improving how Android Wear 2.0 works on the fitness front, Google is also planning an upgrade to how notifications are received and answered.

Google is adding three features to Android Wear 2.0, including smart reply, which can discern the context of your message; handwriting recognition, so even the messiest scrawl can be recognised; and a new QWERTY keyboard, all powered by Google’s machine learning.

“Watches are uniquely suited to connect us to those people we love: you’ll never miss a call from your child’s school, or a message from a close friend, and that’s why we’re redesigning key experiences on the watch to be even more intuitive and enabling to new ways to respond to messages just on your wrist,” said Singleton.


Android Wear 2.0 works with either Android or iPhone and Google has said that despite the company wanting the watch to be able to standalone, it is improved by connection to a smartphone.

“Watches with cellular support become even more powerful. You’ll be able to make calls, get help from Google and use your favorite apps right from the watch no matter where your phone is, or even if it’s on or off,” said Singleton.

Android Wear 2.0 is available today for developers and will be launched publicly later in the year.

Meet MiRO: The robot dog with a mind of its own

Attendees of the International Conference on Robotics and Automation will this week meet MiRO: the robotic pet dog that has been built to provide the elderly with company.

MiRO – designed by Consequential Robotics – looks and behaves like a pet dog, and has six ‘senses’ including touch sensitivity, light sensitivity, stereo eyesight and sharp hearing.

The robot dog uses a sonar sense, like bats and dolphins, to help navigate its surroundings, and MiRO’s cliff sensors help to ensure that it does not fall off a table or down a flight of stairs.

“At the heart of our approach is human-centred design – understanding the practical needs of our users as well as their emotional wants and dreams,” said designer, Sebastian Conran.

Images courtesy of Consequential Robotics

Images courtesy of Consequential Robotics

Consequential Robotics is the result of a collaboration between the award-winning designer Sebastian Conran, as well as Professor Tony Prescott and Dr Ben Mitchinson from the University of Sheffield.

The company’s main focus will be to develop companion and assistive robotic systems that will enhance quality of life for people as they age.

Professor Tony Prescott said: “Consequential Robotics builds on a scientific approach to robot design that we have been developing in Sheffield for more than two decades and that is based on our understanding natural intelligence in animals and people.  We use ideas from psychology and neuroscience to help design future robots to be more useful and more life-like.”

“MiRO, our first product, is a step towards developing companion robots – the future robots that will share our personal spaces, provide entertainment and social interaction, and enhance our quality of life,” said Prescott.


Although the long-term plan is for MiRO to be a companion robot, initially the robot will be marketed to researchers who are interested in developing companion robots and to universities doing research in robotics or offering training in robot programming.

““Consequential Robotics addresses one of the fast growing emerging markets – companion and assistive robotics – thanks to its unique capability of combining world-leading psychology research with renowned award-winning design,” said  Aidong Xu, director of New Business & Partnerships at IP Group, the University of Sheffield’s intellectual property commercialisation partner.