We’re still in the very early phase of smartwatch development: Nobody really knows what these devices can really do to go mainstream and, currently, the name of the game is trying out new approaches to see whether they work. One of the latest UI experiments is Attopedia, a new Android Wear version of Wikipedia that uses an ingenious two-dimensional layout to shrink large entries into facts that can fit on a small screen.
Wikipedia entries are already well laid out and follow a style guide with standard conventions for denoting sections and subsections. Dheera Venkatraman’s Attopedia app — which is not associated with the Wikimedia Foundation — takes advantage of that structure to adapt the open encyclopedia into a format that’s friendly with Android Wear, by converting a Wikipedia entry into a matrix. Swiping down takes you to a new section — “History,” “Early life and career,” etc. — and swiping to the right takes you to a subhead within that section. So using an example from Wikipedia’s MIT history section, a right swipe would bring you to “Foundation and vision,” then another would bring you to “Early developments,” and so forth. Basically, the app takes the one-dimensional layout of most web pages (down) and turns it into a two-dimensional grid.
While the need for Wikipedia on the wrist seems superfluous at best, the app does represent one of the first unique third-party user interfaces developed for Android Wear. Venkatraman made the point that many people had similar doubts about browsing web pages on a mobile interface, but when designers eventually designed sites specifically for the mobile web, usage exploded.
Still, it’s hard to think of an instance when I’d want to browse Wikipedia on a smartwatch, especially considering that Android Wear requires a smartphone in near proximity. Plus, Google’s voice search can hit you up with just the fact you were looking for on a Android Wear-friendly card. Perhaps a cheating student would want it for situations when a verbal “OK Google” would draw too much attention. Regardless, it’s nice to see a new smartwatch interface idea, even if it is an unlikely application.
If you’ve got an Android Wear device, you can download Attopedia for free from the Google Play store.