Last week, Google somewhat quietly rolled out Google Assistant on Android TV. On devices like the Nvidia Shield and Nexus Player, users will now have the ability to natively call on the Assistant to do tasks like opening apps, checking the weather, searching for web content, and more.
Google didn’t make a huge fuss of this, but they did craft a cool little promo video about it. Check it out.
From the video, it seems you’ll be able to do a few pretty cool things, like:
- Play music
- Play TV shows & movies
- Get contextual playback (TV shows set in New York, for instance)
- Get contextual info on shows/movies
- Open apps
- Pause/restart playback
- Check your calendar
- Show you photos from Google Photos
- Standard searches
- Check the weather
- Control lights and connected Home devices
Basically, most of the things you can invoke Google Assistant for with Google Home you’ll be able to do with an Android TV device.
Here’s the issue: only 17 people have Android TV. Overstatement? Sure. But the painful truth is Android TV never really caught on. Other than the Nvidia Shield and Google’s own Nexus Player, I’d challenge you to name anyone else that made a useful contribution to this ecosystem without consulting a search engine.
Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing Assistant grow and expand. And this news has me all set to brush the dust off my Nexus Player and give it another go, especially if Google would release the YouTube TV app for Android TV.
Wait. You didn’t know that YouTube TV didn’t have an app on Android TV yet?
Nah. It doesn’t.
Which is a symptom of the underlying problem, isn’t it? If Google is growing its YouTube TV service and still hasn’t provided an app for its TV box, doesn’t that say something about the platform as a whole?
Some of you have arrived here already. Google’s winning (dominant) big-screen experience is had through use of the ubiquitous Chromecast.
Gen 1, Gen 2, or Ultra, the Chromecast is the runaway hit for Google when it comes to TV and family rooms. The ease of use, low cost, and low barrier to entry make it the simplest streaming device on the planet. It’s also the easiest device to recommend to others.
The simplicity and sheer volume of Chromecasts in the market mean that if you are using a Google platform to watch streaming content, you are likely using a Chromecast.
Sure, there are benefits to TV boxes like Roku, Fire, and Apple TV. But there are also an equal number of counter-arguments that show both methods of streaming content are viable and useful.
Regardless of where you sit on the matter, the fact is Google has conceded that its streaming method of choice – simply by adoption numbers alone – is the Chromecast.
So why is Google Assistant not here yet?
From a hardware standpoint, there’s no reason. Keep in mind Google Home is literally a repackaged Chromecast with a speaker and LED array, so there’s no real reason a Chromecast couldn’t do exactly what Google Home does.
The visual interface they’ve added with Android TV would serve as a great way to deliver results and such to the user’s queries.
The only hardware issue I see at the moment is the microphone. Android TV boxes have mics in the remotes, so the fancy mic that the Google Home possesses isn’t necessary. Chromecast – by nature of where they usually exist in TV setup – would need a pretty awesome mic to respond to your voice.
Other than that consideration, however, a Chromecast with Google Assistant built in would be AMAZING!
Re-watch that video up there and imagine doing this stuff on a Chromecast. I love the ability to cast nearly anything from any device, but having the ability to also prompt the Assistant to drum up content on a whim with a simple voice command (and no device present) sounds really sweet, too.
With the existing market penetration Google already has with Chromecast, I simply cannot imagine this scenario not being in the cards for a future release. Sure, you may need to buy a new Chromecast made for Assistant for it to all work, but if the current pricing stays around, that’s just not a huge deal for a lot of people.
I don’t see Android TV as a legitimate entry for getting Google Assistant in the living room and I don’t think its addition is enough to persuade TV box buyers away from Fire TV, Roku or Apple TV.
But a ~$50 Chromecast that I can queue up content on with my voice? Yeah, I’d buy that instead.