Android TV, Google’s software for the big screen, will get a welcome visual overhaul when Android O rolls around later this year. The update largely involves making the home screen more animated, as well as allowing users to “find content faster,” as the Director of Android TV, Sascha Prüter, told Digital Trends.
At the top of the home screen, Android TV owners will be able to pin their favorite apps. You can still see the full grid-like view of your library, but this new row adds a faster way to access your most-used apps. You can press and hold on an app to uninstall or un-favorite it — it works and looks a lot like Android 7.0 Nougat’s App Shortcuts.
Below the Favorites row, you’ll find the “Watch Next” section — this is similar to the “Continue Watching” section of Netflix, where you can pick up shows directly where you left off. You can also select shows you may be interested in watching, and pin them there as a reminder. There’s also a Recommended row, where specific channels can add programs they think will be a good fit for the user.
When you click on a tile, the home screen background color changes to match colors in the poster art, and each program can show “video previews” of content — sort of like a teaser trailer to get you interested. This extends to live programming as well — the tile can show what’s happening live when you hover over a program.
If app developers offer support, you may also find multiple “channels” from content creators. For example, the NBA could offer a separate row of game recaps for you to browse through, in addition to its main channel. You can toggle channels off and on to your liking. Again, like many of these features, it really relies on developers to implement support.
Google Assistant wasn’t available on the Android TV running Android O yet, but Google did show us how Assistant would work on the platform — specifically with the Nvidia Shield.
Assistant requires a microphone, whether it’s on your remote or the Shield controller. Tap it and you’ll be able to ask just about anything — the content peeks from the bottom in a dark-themed interface. Best of all, it doesn’t interrupt what you’re watching. It’s an incredibly simple way to hop throughout the user interface without dealing with the remote. Since Assistant is contextually aware, you can say things like “videos of John Oliver,” and a series of YouTube videos peeks from the bottom. Say “play the third one,” and the Assistant will understand exactly which clip you want to watch.
Of course, you can also ask Assistant for information about your commute to work, the weather, and more. Google is in the process of unifying Assistant across all its platforms, so you can, for example, tell your Google Home to cast content to your Android TV.
Assistant integration and the new Android TV interface are expected to roll out later this year — the latter specifically when Android O launches for smartphones in the fall.