Voice-controlled smartwatches that track heart rates and connect to phones and tablets will debut later this year as Google partners with electronics, technology and fashion firms to take consumers to the next promised frontier in computing.

Google unveiled on Tuesday plans to help develop the voice-controlled watches and other wearable computers based on its Android mobile operating system, which already runs more than three out of four smartphones sold worldwide.

The Android Wear project is open to software makers to create apps for the watches, putting Google at the forefront of efforts to jumpstart the nascent wearable computing market.

The news comes as speculation swirls around iPhone maker Apple’s plans for wearable computers, including a smartwatch of its own. Apple chief executive Tim Cook has promised new “product categories” later this year.

A video posted on Google’s blog on Tuesday showed people speaking into their watches to check sports scores, control music, send replies to text messages and even open their home garages.

By aligning itself with a broad spectrum of partners to develop the smartwatches, Google was hoping to replicate the success that helped make its free Android software the most popular smartphone operating system, analysts said. – Reuters