Yesterday Google announced and previewed a new product called Android TV. Android TV is coming soon, both in set top box form, as well natively integrated in television sets. Among its other features like search and voice input, it is also capable of playing games. Google mentioned that this isn’t a new platform, so much as they’re now going to give televisions the same level of attention as phones and tablets, and there should now be a single SDK for all form factors, including TVs. This should allow developers to create games that play on Android TV with relative ease.
As an aside, I really hope Google lives up to its assertion of giving TVs that much attention as I think the potential is there, waiting for them to tap into it. Google mentioned that remotes are integral to the experience of TV, and that Android TV will only require a D-pad and voice input to work; so the remotes can be traditional, or game controllers, or even an Android phone or tablet using a virtual remote.
Google mentioned that three out of four Android users play games on their handsets, causing Google Play to be one of the largest catalogues of games in the world. Having explained that, it would only stand to reason that they would specifically demonstrate how games worked on the Android TV. The first game they demonstrated (using a PlayStation controller) was Leo’s Fortune, and it looked good. The animation was fluid and the graphics were sharp and crisp. The game was controlled using a PlayStation controller connected via USB. Game controller support was installed in Android back in Ice Cream Sandwich, so it’s nice to see Google carry that over to their push (again) into the TV space.
To illustrate multiplayer, a head-to-hea round of NBA Jam was played between the keynote speaker at that time using Andtroid TV, someone else running the same game on a tablet, and the loser buying beer. They did say that any device should be able to participate in multiplayer games. Unfortunately, details were scarce as to how this worked whether it connected via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or something else. Leaderboards and achievements are able to be shared through a Google Play Games tie in.
The games (among other content) will be available in a “TV-centric Play Store experience”, and the store will officialy be launched with the “L” release of Android in the fall. I take that to mean that it’ll be the same Play store that we already use, but it’ll feature games and other content that developers have enabled, or specifically created, for Android TV and the Play store will simply filter out the games and apps that don’t apply, much like it does now for older or under-spec’d handsets. Android TV should cover the entire hardware spectrum with Google saying that it should be ideal for television sets, set-top boxes, streaming boxes, and gaming consoles. The first TV manufacturers to include Android TV will be Sharpe, Sony and TPVision Philip’s in 2015, and streaming boxes by Razr and Asus (among others) should be on their way in the fall. The chipset that they mentioned was NVidia’s TK1 reference design. The entire demonstration was run on a set-top developer preview unit called ADT-1, which is powered by that chip.
On the whole, the demonstration looked slick and promising, with numerous hardware choices in the pipeline. Allowing other players to bring their own devices to an Android TV unit to hook into multiplayer could be huge, as it opens up the experience beyond just those that have Android TV imbedded in, or attached to, their television set.