JBL’s new soundbar brings Android TV and Google Assistant to sets via HDMI

Given the downright deluge of news over the past couple of weeks, one has to wonder what, precisely, Google is keeping up its sleeve for I/O. The big event doesn’t kick off until tomorrow morning, but the company just dropped another interesting announcement: JBL Link Bar.

Created in partnership with Google, the living room entertainment device plugs into a set via HDMI, delivering Assistant and Android TV, in the process. It’s a interesting addition to Google’s smart home offerings, a bit like building a Chromecast directly into the soundbar. It’s a way to deliver the new version of Android TV introduced with Oreo, without having to upgrade the set.

The addition of Assistant, meanwhile, comes as Google is looking to compete with the living room footprint Amazon has built by way of the Fire TV. Saying “Hey Google” will fire up the usual array of video content, and when the set is off, the sound bar can double as a Google Home.

According to Google, this is “the first in a series of hybrid devices that delivers a full Assistant speaker and Android TV experience.” So we may be seeing more of those this week at I/O, along with the Link Bar, which will be on display at the event. The speaker’s set to hit stores at some point this fall, for a still TBD price.