Google Cast has been life-changing for me. Not in any significant way, but the ability to send audio and video across my home and to different devices conditionally has certainly been transformative to my quality of life, and I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that way. However, despite being launched almost a decade ago, the technology remains largely unintuitive in regards to its ability to adapt to different circumstances.
Today, I want to look at just five instances where I feel Cast could be improved to shape itself around our lives. In doing so, I want to make it known that I am no developer. Despite this, I understand that some of these may or may not be easy or feasible to implement. Regardless, speculating on potential features of the future is always fun, and you can just file this under ‘shower thoughts’.
Cast Youtube to speakers
To start off our little adventure into ‘what if’, I’m absolutely stunned that casting Youtube videos to speakers is not yet a thing. I seem to remember a time when it was, but I think the feature was yanked when Google wanted to create a more cohesive experience with how we consume content. A visual experience being cast to a non-visual device may seem like an odd wishlist item at first, but you have to keep in mind that Youtube has become just as much a platform for podcasts, debates, and discussions, educational and instructional, and even motivational content. I would wager that most of the content I watch on Youtube can add value to my life when I’m not even looking, and it would be incredible to cast such things and continue to learn and grow from them while in the shower. See? Shower thoughts.
‘Continued Conversation’ Implementations
Many times when I’m listening to a song and want to cast it to another device, I’ll simply ask Google. I understand that Assistant Actions – the system that voice commands for Assistant are built on – take your request (“cast”), your content (the song or video that’s playing), and the target device (the living room TV, for example) all into account in order to build out a logical command. Unfortunately, I don’t see much work being put into the Assistant for Cast technology to understand any of these variables in a more natural or conditional way.
When you stand in front of a famous statue and ask “What’s this?”, Google can tell you what it is based on your location and several other factors as a part of its ‘Continued Conversation’ machine learning and artificial intelligence built into Assistant. Why is it then that when I’m playing a song on my phone and ask Google to “play this song on my kitchen display”, it errors out and asks me to specify which content I’m referring to? It would be more natural for it to grab the audio that’s playing on my device that I activated with my voice and cast it to my home device.
I know that there are many, many variables here at play that would make this complex, such as other people in the home, those same people also having ownership of the same device in the case of a Nest Hub or Chromecast, and other audio that may be playing at the same time. With all of that being said, I know that Google can do it if it puts its mind to it.
Auto cast when phone is placed on Pixel Stand
I placed my Pixel phone on its stand today when I came home and was immediately frustrated with the fact that I had to then pick it back up in order to stop the music, unlock it, and cast it manually to my kitchen Nest Hub. I could have just as easily pressed the pause button on the Youtube video I was watching using the Pixel Stand Assistant display that appears on the ambient lock screen of my phone while it’s docked, but you know what would be even better?
The ability to automatically cast whatever it is you’re watching or listening to to the closest smart hub or TV near you when you set the phone down. Of course, I’d want this to be able to be set up conditionally via the Assistant settings. You don’t want to overtake someone’s Chromecast with Google TV experience just because you decided to set your phone down. Similarly, if you have no Pixel phone or stand, it would be great to initiate such a cast when you connect to a traditional charger.
Auto cast when you arrive home
In the same vein, I’d love the ability to ‘automagically’ cast my content from my phone to my Chromecast with Google TV the moment my phone connects to my wireless network at home. This means that I would have to be close enough for my phone to pick up on the wifi, and the annoying buffer between it casting and it connecting to my TV would be complete before I set my keys down on the table and plop down on my couch! Again, conditional statements with Assistant Routines similar to how IFTTT works would be best so that each individual would be able to create a Google that’s truly their own in more meaningful ways.
Auto cast Chromebook audio when you close lid if you’re home
With the updates to Presence Sensing in the Google Home app v 2.36 rolling out yesterday, I believe that Google could make many of these wishlist items possible. Presence sensing can already only ring your Nest Hub or smart display when you’re home if you receive a call in Duo or other similar services, but how neat would it be if you finished using your Chromebook and wished to continue playing a video or a song in your home. Just because you wrapped up your work doesn’t mean that your relaxing music needs to be cut off. Just the same, you shouldn’t have to manually cast things and reroute everything to change devices.
That’s why I hope that one day, my Chromebook’s audio could automatically route from the global media control center to my Nest Hub or Google TV when I shut my laptop lid. I admit that this one is a bit far out there, but I’m told I’m a futurist, so forgive me for watching too many sci-fi movies – I think this would not only be possible but preferable in certain situations and to certain people like myself! If nothing else, perhaps these conditional casting situations could prompt the user with a notification on a relevant device so that swapping over is reduced to the tap of a button.
I know that many of these requests probably seem highly specific to my use case, but I’m sure you can probably think of several situations where Google Cast just doesn’t seem smart enough for your needs. As I said, it’s incredible, but it has some work to do in order to be truly adaptive to our lifestyles. What would be your top feature requests for Google Assistant and Cast technology? Let’s continue this conversation in the comments section!