CES is happening right now in Las Vegas. The whole show is a show, with participating companies showcasing the latest technology of all kinds, from everyday products like phones and tablets to slightly more bizarre products like a connected urinalysis device and battery-operated TVs.
Google didn’t have much new to show off 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 happening in the world of android lately. If you’re curious what it’s like inside, you’re in luck: we took a ton of photos and you can see them all here.
The Google “booth” is actually a stand-alone structure just outside of the convention proper. Is very Google, with cleverly designed and minimalist stage areas for demos of a ton of Android ecosystem features.
The exterior of the building features a billboard-sized screen that displays a bunch of cool Android graphics. Inside, the showroom is modern and spacious, though the crowds that have packed it all week make it feel a bit less spacious. It’s packed with Google devices, obviously, but there are third-party devices scattered throughout as well. Google is really trying to drive home the idea of Android as a cohesive ecosystem this year.
There are plenty of cool android-themed decorations, including a blue camo-patterned android bug hanging from the ceiling and a very charming topiary. Google also put some smaller decorations in less obvious places, like the little light-up androids you can see here that are close to the floor.
Much of the space is devoted to showing how you can easily control smart home and media devices with Google products. There are staging areas for automations, changing Chromecast audio, Google TV, and more.
Much of what Google shows here has been around for a while, but found clever ways to highlight functionality. One area demonstrates how you can link automations to alarms to do things like turn lights or coffee makers on automatically when you wake up; another shows how easy it is to move audio streams between different Assistant devices.
However, there are a couple of new things. While it’s already possible to move your YouTube music stream between Assistant speakers directly from the notifications panel, Google announced that functionality will soon be coming to Spotify, where it will work with Assistant-enabled speakers and Spotify Connect. Eventually, you’ll also be able to get preemptive notifications about switching your media playback to the nearest speaker so you don’t have to dig through any app to get your music moving with you.
Google is talking about the big new Android Auto redesign at CES. The company officially announced the update at I/O 2022, but it’s finally rolling out to everyone.
Google is offering in-vehicle demos, and the cars it brought in to do it are pretty eye-catching. There’s a BMW i7, plus Volvo’s unreleased electric SUV, the 2024 EX90.
The two cars have different screen form factors, so they’re a nice way to show just how adaptable Android Auto is. However, the wait to enter any of the vehicles has been long.
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There are a handful (dolls? No? Sorry) of Wear OS demos set up, showcasing new and existing features.
There’s a station where you can take a selfie on an Android-themed bench wearing a Wear OS watch (not shown here, unfortunately), one where you can learn about the Pixel Watch’s Fitbit integration, and a demo on controlling devices. smart homes through the relatively new Wear OS Google Home app.
The biggest news here is probably Watch Unlock, a Pixel Watch feature that keeps your phone unlocked only when you’re wearing the watch, as opposed to the existing Smart Lock option that lets you bypass your lock screen every time your watch is connected. (whether you are wearing it or not). It’s a more secure setup, but certain things, like contactless payments, will still require unlocking the phone manually. We don’t know exactly when Watch Unlock will be rolled out, but since it will be shown at CES, we hope it will arrive soon.
…And the rest
There are also demos of some more existing features, in addition to the obligatory display of Google hardware.
One interesting display is about an accessibility feature called Sound Notifications, which allows your phone to listen to the sounds you choose to receive notifications from. It is primarily intended to help people with hearing loss; For example, if you’re having trouble hearing your doorbell, you can set Sound Notifications to send a notification when it rings. There’s a list of pre-programmed sounds, or you can set custom notifications for anything you need to be aware of by recording your own sounds for yourself to hear.
Google is also demoing Near Share in an area where you can design your own custom bugdroid (mine is the blue one in the cap) and then send it wirelessly to multiple nearby tablets with a few taps. There’s even a working slot machine themed Fast Pair. You can’t actually try Fast Pair – there are dozens and dozens of phones and everyone will see the notification – but the machine dispenses green M&Ms and jelly beans, which is a fun touch.
Even if Google didn’t have much new to show off at the convention, its presentation this year is still a lot of fun. Do you want more CES? Check out our favorite new gadgets from the show.
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