As expected, Google devoted part of its I/O developer keynote address this evening to Android TV, a new initiative that aims to make it easy to access your digital content on a television.
Android TV itself is a platform, not a device—though it will be found on all manner of set top boxes, built into upcoming Smart TVs, and potentially released for use on game consoles as well. It runs on the back of Android L, and it’s expected to be available this autumn.
It needs only a directional pad and voice input for interactions, which can be handled via your phone, Android Wear watch, a game controller, or remote. Pressing the home button on your input device brings up an overlay that sits atop whatever content you’re currently playing, showing available movies and TV shows, media apps, and even Android games that can be played on the TV.
The existing Android version of NBA Jam was demoed during the keynote, and a second player was able to compete nearby on a tablet while the other played using a controller on the television. Other titles like Soulcalibur, Leo’s Fortune, and Badland were seen on the display, and it’s likely that a wide range of top Android games will be tweaked to become TV-friendly.
Powerful voice search is one of the biggest advantages of Android TV, as you can say something like “Oscar-nominated movies from 2002” (as demonstrated in the keynote) and get accurate results. And within any results, you can dig deeper to find out actors and actresses, peruse their other roles, see relevant YouTube clips, and more.
Android TV also features full Google Cast support, so you can fling content from your phone or tablet and treat it like a Chromecast.
Asus and Razer are working on Android TV set top boxes that will debut this fall, while the 2015 Smart TV lines from Sony, Sharp, and Philips will also feature it. Developers can get their hands on the SDK tomorrow to begin adapting their apps and games to play nice with Google’s big-screen interface, and Google is also making available a test set top box to help them optimize their experiences for upcoming hardaware.