I’ve seen the future and it begins on my sofa with Google TV.
It isn’t uncommon among geeks to have your PC (or Mac) wired to your TV. A decent audio-out cable, an HDMI cable and you’re good to go. With this simple setup and a few tweaks to your TV’s input and display settings, you can watch YouTube videos (or anything else)—and that’s pretty cool.
But Logitech’s Revue with Google TV takes the integration between television and the web to a whole new level. I was able to play with one for a few hours. Here are my five favorite things about the Logitech Revue with Google TV as well as a brief review of the functionality.
1. The Web—Only Bigger, Better and On Your TV
If you’ve ever wished that you could use the web on your 47 Inch hi-def TV, you’re probably going to want Google TV. Web pages are rendered quickly, clearly and with their full functionality right on your TV. (Although Hulu might be a problem).
Not only can you browse the web, but you can interact with it just like on your Mac or PC. This means you can easily enter text—whether that’s a tweet, a search term or even a full blown blog post.
For those of you wondering how you can possibly do this using your TV remote control the answer is simple—you don’t have to. The Logitech Review comes with a fully functional wireless keyboard that includes a touchpad pointing device that even allows you to scroll with two fingers just like on a Mac.
You can also get a smaller mini-controller that features a thumb keyboard and much of the same functionality. Get both and you can finally prove to your kids that a keyboard is faster than sending texts on a phone—maybe.
In addition, you can even control Google TV using Logitech’s Harmony technology with your iPhone or Android device but more on that in a minute.
2. Seamless Video Conferencing—although I put this second on my list, it really is one of the coolest features of this new platform. Not only is the video big, bright and clear, it also allows you to place calls to and from the TV via Skype and other video calling platforms as well.
In a prior post, John Biggs of CrunchGear worried that calling on Google TV using the Logitech Revue wouldn’t be as simple as it is using Skype. Well, he can stop worrying because it is. Click, connect, talk (and see); it really is that simple.
One other great thing about Google TV using Logitech’s specifically designed camera is that when your TV is off and you receive (but miss) a call, a light comes on that tells you that this has happened. While you can’t yet leave (or receive) a video voice mail, enough people have been asking for this feature that either Google or Logitech should add it later or an enterprising application developer will build an app for it without a doubt.
3. Your Phone is Now Your Remote Control—In my distant past when I wrote for MobileCrunch, I said more than once that eventually your mobile phone will become the remote control for your life. With Google TV this reality has come one step closer, at least if you have an iPhone or an Android device.
Logitech has developed free software that you can find on either the iTunes Store or the Android App Market that allows you to totally control the Logitech Revue (and thus your interaction with Google TV) with your mobile.
Not only can you navigate with a mouse, you can also use verbal commands for things like searching Google. While I was watching, people threw some pretty rough stuff at the recognizer but it seemed to work every time from what I could see. This is a far cry from other voice to text or voice to command interfaces. My host said “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and Google TV was actually able to get this right. Beyond this, the system even seems to be able to understand people with accents—even heavy ones.
Cooler still, using the built-in share function, you can start watching a video on your mobile and if you like you can share it directly to your Google TV and the video will pick up where you left off, only now it will be bigger, brighter and better.
4. Search (– DUH – It’s Google!)—You’d expect any television platform with Google’s name on it to have great search and the Revue does not disappoint. Not only can you search what is on TV and what’s on the web, you can also search your DVR as well as on any other networked storage device on the same subnet. Family photos will never be the same.
5. Android Apps—Okay I saved the most intriguing and potentially exciting aspect of Google TV for last. Google TV is built on the Android platform and many people, myself included, believe that we’re not only going to see an explosion in app development as a result, but also a quantum leap in what Android applications can deliver. Android apps are not expected to come out until 2011, but it will be worth the wait.
With the high bandwidth of your home connection (which is going to be a lot better than any current 3G network) as well as the much larger format your TV provides (not to mention the full fledged keyboard), Android apps have the potential to get very exciting indeed.
One potential app could be a fantasy football application that can run in a picture-in-picture display and can give you realtime updates on what is happening with your fantasy football team while the game is happening—plus with the video calling capability you can call and heckle your losing friend right in the middle of his ignominious defeat. That’s just one idea off the top of my head.
The Wrap Up
Google TV has been hyped an awful lot—by bloggers, analysts, and even some mainstream media. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t deliver. In fact, if anything I was surprised by just how capable, functional, fun and intuitive the Logitech Revue is, not to mention how much better Google TV makes plain vanilla television.
My Few Complaints: As with many brand new product (the one I tested was still in beta), there are a few bugs to be dealt with. The first problem is how Google TV handles Flash. Some pages that render partially or completely in Flash don’t display properly and in one extreme case, a page I was trying to browse that renders fully in Flash crashed the unit completely. The Logitech team told me that they were aware of this issue and that it was being worked on, but as of last night it was still a problem.
Secondly, while the interface is fairly intuitive that cannot be said for every feature. Out of the box some features, and especially advanced features like contolling the camera via the control keyboard, might not be that easy for a first-time user (and especially one that isn’t really tech-savvy) to figure out.
That said, I found the whole experience to be a lot better and a lot more interesting then I had anticipated prior to actually getting my hands on the unit. I’m not much of a gambler myself but I’d be willing to bet that Google TV has a good chance of finally changing the way we interact with our televisions.
Oliver Starr was the original blogger at MobileCrunch and is currently the evangelist for Pearltrees.com. You can find him @owstarr on twitter.