Entertainment

Google TV will gain fitness tracker support, wireless audio features

A closer integration with fitness trackers is part of the company’s goal to make TVs a key pillar of the Android ecosystem.

Google TV home screen

Making TVs more capable comes with increasing hardware and software requirements, leading Google to advise its partners to build more-capable devices.

Photo: Google

Google wants TV viewers to get off the couch: The company is working on plans to closely integrate its Android TV platform with fitness trackers, which will allow developers to build interactive workout services for the living room.

Google representatives shared those plans at a closed-door partner event last month, where they painted them as part of the company’s “Better Together” efforts to build an ecosystem of closely integrated Android devices. As part of those efforts, Google is also looking to improve the way Android TV and Google TV devices work with third-party audio hardware. (Google launched Android TV as an Android-based smart TV platform in 2014; in 2020, it introduced Google TV as a more content-centric smart TV experience based on Android TV.)

Google declined to comment.

Television-makers have for some time looked at ways to extend the functionality of TV screens beyond video viewing, and the pandemic has only intensified consumer interest in at-home workouts, video chats and more. However, making TVs more capable also comes with increasing hardware and software requirements, leading Google to advise its partners to build more-capable devices.

Wear OS integration, wireless audio and smart home features

Google’s fitness integration will eventually enable interactive video workouts, complete with the ability to directly watch one’s heart rate, burned calories and other real-time data from a Fitbit or Wear OS device on the TV screen. The company plans to roll out such capabilities in 2023 at the earliest, according to slides from the event a source shared with Protocol.

At that time, and throughout 2024, Google also plans to more closely integrate its Android TV platform with its smart home efforts, and for instance allow people to more easily access smart home controls and security cameras on their TV without interrupting their movie-viewing experience.

Other efforts will lead to more immediate results. Google is currently working on turning Nest speakers into wireless speakers for Google TV and Android TV devices, and the company also wants to bring support for this feature to third-party audio hardware.

Google is also actively working on bringing Fast Pair functionality to its own Pixel Buds, which will allow people to quickly pair wireless earbuds with their TV. These audio features could launch on Google TV devices later this year or early next year.

Hardware needs to be more capable

To make all of this work, Google is requiring device-makers to support Bluetooth 5.0 for Android TV or Google TV devices running Android 13. The company is also strongly encouraging its hardware partners to ship smart TVs and streaming devices that run Android 13 with 16 GB of memory to have more storage space for apps and system updates. The company’s own Chromecast with Google TV streaming adapter currently only comes with 8 GB of memory.

At the same time, Google acknowledged that it still has some work to do on the software side to bring promised features to its smart TV platform. The company has for some time talked about bringing picture-in-picture viewing for video chat and other functionality to Android TV and Google TV. However, picture-in-picture won’t be fully implemented in the initial release of Android 13, and the company is instead looking to roll it out with select partners over time.
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