One of the main takeaways from Wednesday’s Google I/O 2017 press conference was that Google wants YouTube to take center stage on the biggest screen in your home. While YouTube’s one billion hours of video content streamed each day is done primarily on mobile devices at present, Google claims TV viewing is growing at a rate of 90 percent per year — and the company hopes to continue to increase that number. During Wednesday’s press conference Google’s head of Living Room Products, Sarah Ali, took to the stage to present several new YouTube features you’ll be able to enjoy on your TV.
First, Chromecast is joining the Internet of Things in a big thanks to integration with Google Home. Those with Google Home speakers, for instance, will be able to control a Chromecast or Chromecast Ultra using Google Assistant on your Google Home device just as you would any other Home-integrated device. That means calling up videos and TV content from YouTube’s live TV service, YouTube TV, without lifting a finger. As an example, Google showed Modern Family’s Phil Dunphe using a Google Home speaker to call up a video about pirates and badminton with nothing more than a random voice command.
One of the other cool announcements was that YouTube’s 360 video feature will be coming to YouTube apps for TVs, streaming devices, and gaming consoles, instead of having to use your phone or a VR headset to watch. The stage demo showed off a beautiful video of the Aurora Borealis in Alaska as an example, and Ali was able to move around her location with an Android TV remote. Live 360 videos from live-streamed events like Coachella, and other events will also be supported. Finding this content will work just like searching for other content in the YouTube app, and allows for voice assistance to make pinpoint searches — in theory, anyway. We haven’t seen the new feature in action just yet.
In addition, Google gave a live demo showing how the previously launched Super Chat feature can be used by YouTube streamers and content creators to connect better with one another. Super Chat gives viewers the ability to purchase special messages for a price of $1-$500, which will be highlighted in the live video chats. To show off the feature Google showed a way to use Super Chat to fundraise for a charity, in this case with each dollar equaling one water balloon being lobbed at popular YouTube content creators the SloMo Guys. It’s an interesting, albeit goofy, method for supporting creator and audience interactions, but many YouTubers will likely find more creative ways to use it.
We’ll find out more as Google I/O continues, and we’ll hopefully be adding some hands on experience with the new features from the floor of the event, so stay tuned.