After revealing that it now has over 110 million monthly active devices for Google TV and Android TV combined, with over 30% of those being added in just the past six months or so, Google has now revealed some of its plans for the future of the platform. While sitting down with the Director of Product Management, Rob Caruso, Protocol uncovered a bunch of great information.
For example, Google TV may be planning on integrating fitness and smart home capabilities later in 2022. Wait, what? I thought Google TV was all about watching television though. Slow down – before you put the cart before the horse, let’s take a look at what else was said, and then I’ll explain why this makes perfect sense as a trajectory for the future, and why it’s not so strange at all.
Mr. Caruso stated that the idea of integrating smart home controls into the Google TV experience was something that’s being explored at this time. He pointed out how this is already possible on Android phones via the lock screen, so we’ll likely see the ability to access many of your smart bulbs, speakers, displays, and more from the ambient display on Chromecast with Google TV and Android TV set-top boxes before long.
He went on to say that “Fitness is another big area of exploration”. Because of this, the company could be working to integrate Google Fit or Fitbit services into your television in some way. Yes, this sounds absolutely absurd, but think about it for a moment. Ever since the global pandemic placed a vice grip on our society, everyone has been stuck inside sucking down Netflix shows and Youtube more heavily than water (this is probably literally true), and with the success of games like Ring Fit Adventure for the Nintendo Switch (it just finally went down in price and became available again), it’s not at all hard to see why Google would want to capitalize on an opportunity to get people up and at it again.
Imagine turning on your Google TV, choosing the Fitbit app, Peloton, Dance Fitness with Jessica, or any number of other fitness and mindfulness apps that have already flooded the living room over the past year (coincidence? I think not!) and busting out a few weekly workouts to stay fit without even leaving your living room. This isn’t as uncommon as you think as people have been doing this for over a decade. In fact, I have a personal fitness trainer whom I get on Zoom with three times per week to do the same, so doing so right from my TV would be a lot more convenient than doing so from my computer screen.
Speaking of making calls from the TV, Caruso also mentioned that the company plans to bring Google Duo to Google TV as well, making it much easier to ring someone up right from the comfort of your couch – a much more natural and laid back environment for conversing. Duo has been available on Android TV for over two years now, and more TVs are coming equipped with built-in cameras too, so having this capability right on a modern dongle would be great.
Lastly, while Protocol wasn’t able to coax a date for the launch of these new features out of Rob, they are inevitable, I believe as Google’s own CEO, Sundar Pichai, has stated over numerous occasions that Google sees great opportunity in the living room of our homes and that Google TV and the television is the center of all of what it plans on innovating on in the future.
Alright, with all of that out of the way, I wanted to discuss this idea of your living room TV as a whole-home command center. Many people seem to think that the largest screen in our homes should be relegated to the same thing it’s always been used for – watching regularly scheduled television programming in a traditional way.
I believe this is absolutely silly. The rise of video on demand, streaming, including cloud gaming, Youtube, and more proves that smart TVs aren’t just and only for watching TV. Sure, it’s in the name. Hell, it’s even in the brand’s name – Google TV. However, the brand is more so about the device you’ve centered around – the Television, and not as much the activity or tradition of watching TV anymore. You can do just that, but I think you’d really be missing out. It’s 2022, and you can pull up your Nest cameras right on the big screen, get answers about anything in the freaking world via Google Assistant with the press of a button, and more.
I’ll say this once, and I’ll stand by it – Google TV was never just about TV. It may have started that way, but Caruso and Google are simply rolling out their vision for the natural evolution of the TV since it’s remained relatively unchanged and utilitarian for decades.
Another obvious conclusion we should be aware of is that while I don’t think these additional features will be considered “bloat”, especially if they can be turned on and off or uninstalled completely, I do think that Google needs to release a new Chromecast with Google TV with more RAM. Perhaps they have an Ultra model planned for the future – who knows? As it stands, installing apps on the current dongle is a hassle, and it’s getting pretty slow for many people (there’s an update that helps this!)
Another claim I’ve seen out in the wild is that Google is tossing way too much into the pot for Google TV and that the service itself will become too bloated with the addition of fitness and smart home features. To that, I would just say that when the company combines experiences, it’s not because it wants to make one app for everything just for the hell of it, but it’s because the lines between those separate experiences become so blurred that it no longer makes sense for them to not overlap in some way.
Just look at Google Home and Nest and even Google Wifi for example. As Google Wifi entered more homes, it no longer made sense to have its own app, and it was baked into the Home app. The same goes for Nest, but it’s still a separate install, even though it’s being merged over time. The same can be said of Google TV in relation to Nest cameras, quick access to smart home controls, video calling, at-home fitness routines, and more. As I mentioned, all of these things share in common the fact that we are spending larger amounts of time at home thanks to the pandemic, so why shouldn’t they be integrated? Do I think that the Google Home app could be presented better or cleaned up? Definitely. Do I think the fact that it’s got a lot going on now means that it should never have tossed in these other tools? Absolutely not.
There’s literally no reason why the largest screens in our homes should remain stuck in the past while everything else is propelled into the future. For the naysayers to want their smart TV to remain stone age while walking around with a thousand-dollar smartphone in their pocket while living in a smart home is just so contradictory to me. It’s okay if you disagree because you can literally just unplug the Chromecast or disable the features you don’t want. That’s the beauty of choice, and we certainly have that in abundance these days! As for me, however, I’m glad Google is making use of the TV since it’s the center for many families as they come together over entertainment. Adding value here is the key, but they will have to be careful not to mess that up.