Android was once the darling of the open source community, though you'd be forgiven for forgetting that - these days its commercial elements seem to be all that make the news. One developer is hoping that community can save the smartwatch, or at the very least, breathe a little new life into existing designs. Florent Revest, a French computer science student, released the 1.0 alpha version of AsteroidOS today. It's ready to run on multiple Android Wear devices: the original LG G Watch, the Watch Urbane, the Asus ZenWatch 2, and the Sony Smartwatch 3.
AsteroidOS is fully open source, based on Linux and designed for (relatively) easy porting to existing smartwatch hardware. Revest has been working on it for more than a year, aided by a collection of contributions from the GitHub and XDA communities. At the moment AsteroidOS is functional, but basic - tools are limited to most of the things you'd find in a "dumb" phone, like an alarm clock, calculator, weather app, and a Settings menu. A custom Android app allows syncing notifications and music control via Bluetooth with any Android phone.
Prospective users can download and install AsteroidOS on their watches after unlocking them and flashing the custom ROM via ADB and fastboot, in a process that should be fairly familiar to anyone who's used CyanogenMod or similar ROMs. But don't be too hasty with your fastboot OEM unlock just yet: only the original G Watch has full support at the moment. The other smartwatches with semi-official ports of version 1.0 all lack Bluetooth support, which is kind of a killer for a functional smartwatch.
Still, it's good to see that someone still believes in smartwatches. Pebble has just been swallowed up by Fitbit to join the more focused ranks of "activity trackers," and Motorola seems to be throwing in the towel on its Moto 360 series. Samsung seems committed to at least another year or two of wearable development, but the other big manufacturers are suspiciously quiet on that front. We're still waiting to see if Google's self-branded Wear devices will materialize or not.
So with the specter of gloom hanging over smartwatches in general, can a single passion project inject some life back into the category? Maybe, maybe not. But at the very least it will give owners something to do with hardware that seems to be rapidly fading into mobile history.