No other operating system offers the same level of diversity as Android. Whereas the prolific platform was once strictly reserved for smartphones and a handful of tablets, the mobile operating system has expanded beyond mobile devices into the realm of wearable tech with novelty products such as the infamous Google Glass and the lackluster LG G. Android’s most recent innovation, still, lies in Android Auto — an aptly-titled OS optimized for your car. The platform only bolsters Android’s steps toward a truly unified experience, providing seamless integration with Google’s Chrome OS and allowing vehicle owners to launch apps on their smartphone or tablet and quickly access the same app from their car within a moment’s notice. However, for all the brilliance Android has brought to the tech-lined table, there have been more than a few ho-hom devices that run on Google’s flagship platform. Android may work well with tablets and automobiles, but let’s just say things can get a whole lot weirder when you add smartphone projectors and toilets into the mix.
Update: This article was originally published Oct. 23, 2013, and recently updated to include more unusual devices running Android. Staff writer Joe Donovan contributed to this article.
In the past Android has been implemented into Autos with car apps. However, all that’s about to change given Google’s announcement of Android Auto at I/O 2014. The software essentially transforms your car’s dash into a fully operational Android device, focusing on navigation, music, and the hands-free operation of apps. The software, powered by your Android phone, even alerts drivers to notifications on Android OS and Chrome OS devices. Other features include streamlined implementation of Google Maps and Google Now, along with the ability to set geographic-specific reminders dictate responses to various notifications. Though relatively new, the response thus far has been overwhelmingly positive, with more than 40 major car manufacturers having already announced plans to integrate the software with their upcoming models.
Samsung’s first Android fridge can be yours for $3,700. It has an Android tablet embedded in the door. This Wi-Fi enabled LCD can display the time, the weather, even photos from your Picasa library, or entries from your Google Calendar. It will also run a handful of apps like Epicurious to provide recipes, a notepad for writing messages and reminders on the fridge door, and Twitter and an AP News app for the latest happenings. According to the consumer reviews there may be a few teething issues and design flaws. The idea of having to reboot your fridge to get it working properly just sounds wrong.
Related: DT’s comprehensive refrigerator reviews.
Behold, the toilet that interfaces with your Android smartphone. The Satis Smart Toliet doesn’t come with an Android device — nor do most appliances that run on Android — but downloading the accompanying mobile allows you to adjust the height of the toilet seat and activate the bidet from your smartphone. Moreover, when you’re not using the toilet, you’ll be able to access informative regarding how regularly you’re going to the restroom and how much water the smart toilet is using within a specified time frame. There’s even a Bluetooth component that automatically adjusts the toiled to your personalized settings when you approach.
The Ford E-Bike is really just a concept right now. It’s a lightweight, unisex bicycle that has an electric motor in it. You can attach an Android smartphone to the handlebars and tap into the sensors to get a read out of the distance you’ve covered, your speed, and even diagnostic data related to the internals. The idea is that the E-Bike gives you a smooth ride by calculating how hard you have to pedal and then compensating for extra effort with the motor. Crazy or genius? We suspect the price tag might put it in crazy territory.
Who could resist Dacor’s Discovery IQ oven from just $4,500? It boasts a 1GHz Samsung processor, 512MB of RAM, Wi-Fi, and a 7-inch LCD. The Discovery IQ Controller is your cooking app and guide which can be accessed on any Android tablet or smartphone on the same Wi-Fi network. It’s filled with recipes and cooking instructions, but you can also download other cooking related apps direct to your oven. There’s no word on storage space and we can’t imagine working on a small panel on the front of your oven will be comfortable, but it does have stereo sound. Time to cook up some Angry Birds!
Related: DT’s in-depth range reviews.
Although Samsung’s Galaxy Beam made it out of the concept phase, the unique device was fairly limited in most markets. However, the phone-projector hybrid was still successful enough for Samsung to launch a limited release of the Beam 2, a smartphone currently offered through China Mobile. The previously-outlined device uses a large mini-projector lens installed above the speaker to project images onto a white wall or a projection screen, theoretically allowing you to “set the mood” for a party with instant video and images. It also allows you to replay video footage from your day on the mountain or instantly showcase presentations directly from your phone. It could be handy tool, I suppose, for projecting mustaches onto your friends’ faces or working your cat into a tizzy.
Samsung is determined to invade your kitchen with Android compatible devices and it offers a washer and dryer range that can be remote controlled by your Android smartphone or tablet. The appliances themselves don’t really run Android, but they do have 8-inch touchscreen LCDs and you can control them via an Android app. The app allows you to start a new wash, but it’s really billed as a handy way to check on the progress of your laundry without physically looking. Panasonic is working on similar Android remote control functionality for its whole range of appliances.
A desktop phone
Touch Revolution is determined to put Android tablets in everything and they’ve been touting the NIM1000 module around to manufacturers for a while now. They showed it off embedded in a microwave, among other things, at CES more than two years ago. One of the more revolutionary ideas was to use Android in a phone, a desk phone. This would be great for business users because they could experience a limited version of Android on a touchscreen attached to an old school phone instead of, y’know, taking the smartphone out of their pocket.
Light switches, thermostats, door locks – the idea of home automation via Android was exciting when the Android@Home project was first discussed, but sadly progress has been rather slow until recently. For instance, Belkin’s WeMo range offers light switches, power points, a baby monitor, and a motion sensor that you can remote control with your Android device. There are a few other options out there, but they’re generally pretty expensive to set up.
Related: DT’s complete home automation coverage.
Is Pressy — the Almighty Android Button — one of the greatest ideas of our time, or not? It’s a button that will slide into the 3.5mm headphone jack on your Android smartphone. With the Pressy app you can then configure a function for the button. Your Android button could serve as an instant flashlight, camera shutter, or a Wi-Fi toggle control, there are loads of potential options. It completely smashed its Kickstarter target last year and is already in for sale on the company’s site.
What could be better than your very own Android controlled robot? Google owns a handful of robotics companies. There are loads of projects out there to use Android to run robots, but our favorite is this little fella. The Arduinoid Mk I, featured on Let’s Make Robots, uses a Galaxy S3 as a brain. Sadly, the reality of commercially available Android controlled robots is more like Sphero the Robotic Ball.
The unfortunately-named Appresso is a music dock and espresso machine that you can dock your Android smartphone with. It takes coffee capsules with QR codes on them which trigger matching music. It popped up at Yanko Design and we were sad to find it’s just a concept. Just when we’d given up hope of an Android coffee maker, we spotted the Qualcomm Wi-Fi Coffee Machine which made an appearance as a working prototype at MWC earlier this year, as reported by CNET. It allows you to configure your perfect cup of coffee on your Android tablet. If it was capable of loading itself with water and coffee then we’d put our money down now…but it isn’t.