Google has announced a modified version of Android called Android Wear that's designed specifically for wearables.

Android Wear will be featured on devices by HTC, Samsung, Asus, Motorola, and LG, including smartwatches like LG's new G Watch and the Moto 360, as well as other types of wearables down the road.

Naturally, Android Wear makes significant use of Google Now for contextual features and voice commands.

Like on other smartwatches, fitness is a focus with Android Wear devices, but it's clear that Google envisions it has much more to do than tracking your steps.

Scratching the surface

A trailer for Android Wear shows users with a widely varying set of nonspecific smartwatches summoning taxis, replying to text messages, getting directions, checking sports scores and more.

"We've barely scratched the surface of what's possible with mobile technology," Google Senior Vice President of Android, Chrome & Apps Sundar Pichai wrote in a blog post.

He continued, "That's why we're so excited about wearables - they understand the context of the world around you, and you can interact with them simply and efficiently, with just a glance or a spoken word.

Order vs chaos

Samsung and Sony have already released smartwatches based on Android, but they didn't exactly sell like hotcakes. Even Samsung has switched to Tizen for the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo.

With Android Wear, Google no doubt hopes to establish some standards for the world of Android wearables, even if manufacturers will probably run with it on their own tangents like they do with Android itself.

Interested developers can check out the new Android Wear section of Google's dev site to download a developer preview and start experimenting.

In addition to the five manufacturers listed above, Google's Android Wear chip partners are Qualcomm, Broadcom, Imagination, Intel and Mediatek. Google is also working with Fossil, Pichai wrote.

He said to expect the first Android Wear watches "later this year."