It has been more than a year since we discovered that Chrome OS would be getting some form of an Ambient Mode that presumably would mimic the feature found on Chromecast devices. Over the past year, the Ambient Mode has evolved to include a clock widget as well as the outside temperature just like the Chromecast and Assistant displays. Like the latter devices, Chromebook users will have the option to customize the Ambient display with images from Google or photos from their own Google Photos account.
Earlier this year, we unearthed work being done that could bring even more curated information to your Chromebook’s lock screen. “At a glance” widgets began development in April and we theorize that this feature will likely be similar to the widgets found on Google Assistant smart displays. You may find widgets for your daily calendar, connected devices, and who knows what else if Google decides to make this feature a reality on Chrome OS.
While the widgets have yet to grace the lock screen (with the exception of the media widget), the Ambient Mode itself is working perfectly in the Canary channel and I’m honestly not sure why Google hasn’t promoted it to Stable yet. The lock screen will show photos from the galleries of your choice and Chrome OS is smart enough to take vertical photos and place them side-by-side. The clock and temperature widget has been cleaned up and is located at the bottom left of the display just like it is on a Chromecast. It looks good and works just as you’d expect.
Hopefully, Google is getting the “at a glance” widgets put together and ready from the lock screen and that’s the only hold-up. In the meantime, the Chrome OS team has made a tiny tweak to Ambient Mode that, in hindsight, makes a whole lot of sense. If you’re in the Canary channel, you will actually notice that the lock screen’s Ambient Mode is enabled by default. However, in the settings menu, it has been renamed “Screensaver.”
Why does it matter? Well, it may seem insignificant but anyone who has used a computer for more than a few years is likely familiar with the term “screensaver.” Ambient Mode is a much more recent term that is used for mobile devices and smart displays. As much as I’d love to see Chromebooks expand into the smart home space, that’s not the main purpose of a Chrome OS device. Computer users that want a screensaver will head to the settings menu and look for the screensaver and perhaps have no idea what “ambient mode” is or that Chromebooks have it. Again, this tweak may seem trivial but it’s a smart move on Google’s part as millions of users have adopted Chrome OS over the past year. This will bring more familiarity and parity to Chrome OS for users that have jumped from other operating systems. Sometimes, it’s the little things that have the biggest impact.