After seeing quite some high-profile failures at its attempt to win the battle for the living room, Google has officially announced Android TV, its latest stab at owning the largest screen of the house. With some pretty neat navigation tricks and a focus on content and gaming, Google may finally have found its answer to the wildly successful Apple TV.
Google’s Android TV is a little more flexible from its competitors, as it is able to be integrated into smart TVs as well as running independently from set-top boxes. Leveraging on the second-screen phenomenon, users can navigate the Android TV UI using their smartphones via an app, or with the bundled remote which Google says is essentially a D-pad. Navigating the UI is a pretty simple experience, utilizing swipes on all four directions. You can even use your Android Wear device to navigate through the various content and apps available, which are all presented as cards on an overlay atop any content playing in the background.
Once again, voice control is another feature central to Android TV. The remote features an integrated microphone, which you can use to search for content and apps. And, with Google’s Knowledge Graph powering the search, you can easily search for specific titles to more contextual queries, such as “movies that were nominated for the Oscars in 2002”.
Content is very well padded on Android TV, with content providers such as Netflix and Hulu accompanying Google Play content available at launch. In addition, the success of the Chromecast dongle has also led to the introduction of Google Cast, letting you cast Android apps from your smartphone to Android TV in a similar way to what YouTube already does with smart TVs. Apps such as BBC iPlayer can be “cast” to any Android TV from your Android phone or tablet.
On top of that, gaming is another feature Google has focused on with Android TV. Each Android TV will also come bundled with a game controller, letting you sync your Google Play Store games and play them on the big screen. Multiplayer support is here too, so you can play a single game with Android TV against others on their mobile devices. Finally, Android TV will also allow users to mirror the display on their Android devices. There are few devices that support this feature, but more devices will be compatible soon.
Naturally, Google has also roped in device partners to build Android TV products. From 2015, we’ll be seeing Android TV sets from Sony, Sharp, Phillips and TPVision, while companies such as Razer and ASUS will be building Android TV set-top boxes focused on gaming.