Here’s an up close and personal look at Google’s Android experience at CES
CES is happening right now in Las Vegas. The entire show is a stunning spectacle, with participating companies showcasing the latest technology of all kinds – from everyday products like phones and tablets to slightly exotic fare like connected urinalysis and battery-powered televisions.
Google didn’t have much new to show this year, but it did set up an Android showroom outside the sprawling Las Vegas Convention Center where most of the action has been this week to highlight what’s been going on in the Android world lately. If you’re curious about what the inside looks like, you’re in luck: We took plenty of photos, and you can see them all here.
A Google “kiosk” is actually a self-contained structure that is completely outside of proper convention. He is very The Google, It features simple and ingeniously designed launch areas for demonstrations of a range of Android features.
The building’s exterior features a billboard-sized display that scrolls through a set of cute Android graphics. Inside, the showroom is modern and spacious—though the weeknight crowds that filled it make it feel less spacious. It’s obviously full of Google gadgets, but there are third-party devices scattered around too. Google is really trying to pitch the idea of Android as a cohesive ecosystem this year.
There are a bunch of cool Android themed decorations laying around, including a blue boogdroid with camouflage patterns hanging from the ceiling and a very charming topiary. Google also puts some small embellishments in less obvious places, like the little illuminated Android devices you can see here near the ground.
A large portion of the space is dedicated to showing how easily you can control your media and smart home devices with Google products. There are staging areas for automation, toggling Chromecast and Google TV audio, and more.
Much of what Google is showing here has been around for a while, but they’ve found clever ways to highlight functionality. One area shows how you can link automation with alarms to do things like automatically turn on lights or coffee makers when you wake up; Another shows how easy it is to transfer audio streams between different Assistant devices.
There are two new anecdotes. While it’s already possible to stream YouTube music between Assistant speakers directly from the notification panel, Google has announced that this functionality will soon be coming to Spotify, where it will work with both Assistant and Spotify Connect-enabled speakers. You’ll also eventually be able to receive proactive notifications about switching media playback to the nearest speaker so you don’t have to dig into any apps to get your music moving with you.
Google is talking about its big new Android Auto redesign at CES. The company officially announced the update’s method at I/O 2022, but it’s finally out for everyone.
Google’s in-car demos, and the cars it brought in to do this, are pretty impressive. There’s the BMW i7, as well as Volvo’s unreleased electric SUV, the 2024 EX90.
The two cars have different display form factors, so it’s a good way to show how adaptable Android Auto is. But the wait to get into any of the vehicles was long.
There are a few (my wrist? No? sorry) Wear OS demos prepared, showcasing new and existing features.
There’s a terminal where you can take a selfie on an Android-style bench with a Wear OS watch (not pictured here, unfortunately), a terminal where you can get info on Fitbit’s Pixel Watch integration, and a demo on controlling smart home devices with the Wear OS app The relatively new Google Home.
Probably the biggest news here is Watch Unlock, a Pixel Watch feature that only keeps your phone unlocked when you’re wearing the watch, as opposed to the current Smart Lock option that lets you bypass the lock screen anytime your watch is connected (whether you’re wearing it or not). No). It’s a more secure setup, but some things like contactless payments will still require you to manually unlock your phone. We don’t know exactly when Watch Unlock will be out, but since it was shown off at CES, hopefully it will be out soon.
…and the rest
There are demos of some of the features present too, in addition to the mandatory demo for Google devices.
One interesting screen has to do with an accessibility feature called Sound Notifications, which allows your phone to listen to the sounds you choose to receive notifications. It’s primarily intended to help people with hearing impairments – for example, if you’re having trouble hearing the doorbell, you can configure sound notifications to provide a notification when it rings. There’s a list of pre-programmed sounds, or you can configure custom notifications for anything you want to be aware of by recording your own sounds for you to hear.
Google also offers a nearby sharing demo in an area where you can design your own custom bugdroid (mine is blue in a ballcap) and then wirelessly send it to a number of nearby tablets with a few clicks. There is even a working Fast Pair slot machine. You can’t actually try Fast Pair—there are dozens and dozens of phones around and they’ll all see the notification—but the device dispenses green M&Ms and jelly beans, which is a fun touch.
Even if there wasn’t much new that Google could show off at the conference, it’s still very interesting to show off this year. Want more from CES? Check out our favorite new gadgets from the show.
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