Android is coming to the living room in a big way. Dave Burke, Google’s engineering director for Android, revealed during the I/O keynote that televisions are now being given "the same level of attention" as smartphones and tablets. Android TV will use the same SDK as those devices, and Google has equipped the developer kit with lots of couch-friendly interface goodies. Adapting existing apps for big-screen TVs is apparently easy.
"Users don’t expect or want complexity" in their televisions, Burke said, so the Android TV interface is extremely streamlined. Recommended content, applications, and games are organized into tiers that can be navigated with little more than a directional pad and voice input. User habits dictate how everything is organized, and voice-based search is tightly integrated into the experience. The search functionality can be used not only to seek out content, but also to answer questions about it, should you need to settle an argument.
Android TV has an input framework for live broadcasts, complete with the channel information and other details one would expect. Chromecast functionality is also built in. Google showed off numerous enhancements to that platform, including imagery feeds and a nifty screen mirroring mode for smartphones and tablets.
Sharp, Sony, and Philips have already signed on to use Android TV in their next-gen televisions. Stand-alone set-top devices will run the OS, too, including "streaming boxes" from Asus and Razer. Those devices are due later this year, and according to Wired, the Razer will be a "micro-console" with an "affordable" price tag. It will reportedly be capable of playing "hardcore" games, suggesting Shield-style streaming could be involved. Burke also mentioned that the Android TV reference design is based on Nvidia’s Tegra K1 SoC, a chip that should be primed to receive PC gaming feeds.
Conspicuously absent from the discussion of Android TV was any mention of a Nexus-branded set-top box. Google seems content to let its hardware partners to fill out that end of the equation, much like it’s increasingly doing with Android on other platforms.