Google announced Tuesday it was bringing Android, the dominant platform for smartphones, to wearable devices.
The move allows developers to create apps for smartwatches, the first phase of the Android Wear platform.
"We've barely scratched the surface of what's possible with mobile technology," said Google Android chief Sundar Pichai in a blog post.
"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."
The news comes amid a surge of interest in wearable electronics which can connect with smartphones, and after the launch of several smart watches by large and small manufacturers.
The new Android Wear system will make it easier to develop apps specifically for a watch or other wearable device.
"Today we're announcing Android Wear, a project that extends Android to wearables," Pichai said.
"And we're starting with the most familiar wearable -- watches."
He said the platform would hlp facilitate apps that provide news and information, allow chats, monitor health and fitness or help in shopping. The system will enable voice-controlled apps and connect to a smartphone or other device.
While Google itself has not launched a smartwatch, some reports say one is in the works, possibly in partnership with South Korean manufacturer LG.
"Because Android for wearables works with Android's rich notification system, many apps will already work well," Pichai said.
"We're also already working with several consumer electronics manufacturers, including Asus, HTC, LG, Motorola and Samsung; chip makers Broadcom, Imagination, Intel, Mediatek and Qualcomm; and fashion brands like the Fossil Group to bring you watches powered by Android Wear later this year."
Global smartwatch sales are expected grow this year by more than 500 percent from 1.9 million units in 2013, and to expand further in coming years, according to the market researcher Strategic Analytics.
Google said separately it was expanding its Google Play catalog of films and other content for purchase or rental to 39 new countries in Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia.