Google’s just announced Android TV is a significant improvement over the original Google TV.
It doesn’t require a game controller or bulky remote to work (though a game controller can be used for Google Play Games). And you can search for content with your voice.
The UI is simple and much more intuitive than Google TV. It’s controlled by an app for Android phones. Voice search works by using the Android handset rather than a mic on the TV. Smartwatches running Android will also be able to act as a remote (as I understand it) for Android TV.
Beyond the onstage demo during the Google I/O keynote, I had some time yesterday to play with Android TV. While it searches for and returns Google Play content it also appears to provide full Knowledge Graph search results. Currently, Android TV doesn’t index and return regular/cable TV results nor does it appear to extend search beyond Knowledge Graph.
Most people won’t be doing much conventional searching on Android TV. In all probability they’ll be searching for entertainment related content; so, for example, actors, movies, TV shows as well as film and TV trivia. All of that content is available it appears. I was able to ask questions like, “who wrote The French Connection” and get answers.
The image above is a modified version of Knowledge Graph results for actress Anna Gunn (from Breaking Bad). Here’s the corresponding desktop result:
I tried a number of other searches within and outside the scope of Knowledge Graph. Android TV didn’t return results where there wasn’t a Knowledge Graph entry. However, each time there was a Knowledge Graph entry it provided a result, e.g., “Who is the president of the United States.” (I’ve asked Google to clarify the scope of search on Android TV.)
Overall, searching Android TV via voice was simple, generally accurate and fast. This will be the primary way that users interact with the UI. Once a result is displayed you can use the remote (app) to browse and drill into results, which are displayed in grid format.
All this is separate from Chromecast, which was the subject of several announcements yesterday as well. Among them, Google said that friends will be able to “cast” from their devices to your TV without logging on to your WiFi. The company also said that “If your Android device runs KitKat (or higher), you’ll soon be able to cast any on-screen content directly to the TV.”
Accordingly you can search the full Google index on your TV through Chromecast using a smartphone or laptop.
To bring Android TV to market Google announced a range of partners at I/O, including Sony, Sharp, Phillips, Razer and Asus. It said Android TV will be baked into sets but also available through set-top boxes and gaming consoles. Notably missing from the list was partner Samsung.