Microsoft releases Torque -- a Bing-powered Android Wear app
When the smartwatch concept started to take off, I was dubious to say the least. I mean, I own a smartphone, so why do I need another device that essentially duplicates functionality of my phone? It is an honest argument, but I'll concede that I was wrong -- smartwatches rock. Well, to be more specific, Android Wear in particular kicks major ass. I love my Samsung Gear Live which I recently got.
As great as Google's watch concept is, it is a bit limited. It tells me the weather, checks my heart rate and alerts me to Android notifications, and that's cool, but clearly the sky is the limit for the new platform. Today, an unlikely company, Microsoft, releases a new Android Wear app called "Torque" and it is powered by Bing. Yes, a Bing app on a Google watch -- are pigs flying?
Microsoft explains, "Xuedong Huang is wearing a smartwatch. It's a Google smartwatch, and he wants to ask it a question: What's the weather in San Francisco? 'OK, Google', he says to the watch, following the protocol needed to get the watch’s microphone turned on before making a query, which he subsequently does. Then Huang tries another approach, one that's faster, using Torque, an app he helped create. He gives his wrist with the watch a slight twist, and asks the question to Bing. This time, there is no 'OK, Google' needed; the twist turns the microphone on, and the Bing answer arrives quickly: 90 degrees", says Microsoft.
The company further explains that the app "represents Microsoft's evolving culture, where experimentation is encouraged, failure is an option, apps are platform-agnostic and getting them to customers quickly for review is key to learning what will work and what won't". This is a really refreshing thought model and Microsoft deserves major kudos.
I installed the app on my Samsung Galaxy Note 4, and it syncs to my Android Wear smartwatch. At first, you aren't sure that it worked, until you turn your wrist, almost like you are screwing in a screw with a screwdriver. Now, the face of the watch is replaced with the Torque app, which displays the message "how can I help you?", followed by "listening...", as the mic is activated. From here, I can ask Bing for the weather, the time, and things like that. What is really cool though, is that I told it "find me a pizza" and it displayed the 3 nearest pizzerias to my home.
Unfortunately, not all is roses. It often got my location wrong, and on more than one occasion, I activated Torque in error while scratching my head or doing other activities. Even worse, the twisting motion hurts my arm after a while, and I worry that such an action is not sustainable without potentially damaging my wrist or elbow. You can see me using it below:
UPDATE: As some have pointed out, a much gentler twist can be used to activate Torque; no need to damage your arm violently twisting as I do in the above video. This makes the feature far more enjoyable and I look forward to seeing this amazing app evolve. Check out the proper way to do it in the below video.
If you have an Android phone and Android Wear watch, you can try the app here. Tell me how you like it in the comments.