Thinking 'Bout Google TV Apps

Now that Google TV devices have been announced, it is probably time for foward-thinking developers to, well, forward-think about what cool stuff could be done with Android on a TV.

Obviously, we do not know what TV-centric APIs will be available, and that will dictate a lot of what can happen. So, for example, at the Google I|O conference they demonstrated an app that got the closed-captioning text for the show being played and ran that text through Google Translate, for automatic subtitles. For us to be able to do something like that, though, the SDK will need to give us access to that text. We should find out early next year what is and is not possible.

However, there are still plenty of avenues for exploration that do not necessarily rely upon deep Google TV integration.

For example, it would be really slick if somebody came up with a compatibility layer that allowed Boxee apps to run on Google TV. Boxee apps are written in Python, which is available on Android through SL4A. Even if the compatibility layer only gets us 80-85% of the way there, it might make for a useful way to get Boxee developers thinking about Google TV. Done right, and it can even help Boxee, by offering a “write once, run both places” model and giving a solid knock on the head for the Python-less Apple TV.

Then, there are apps that while primarily would be used on a smartphone, could be better used on a TV if the user were at home. For example, I listen to audiobooks using Ambling BookPlayer Pro. I am eternally grateful for its headset detection, as it allows me to play it back on the internal speaker, on headphones, or in my Prius, all the while maintaining my place in the book. However, it might be nice to play it back on a Google TV, to take advantage of the TV’s sound system. Ambling could not only simply adjust their existing player to play directly on a Google TV, but could synchronize playback positions “to the cloud”, so I can pick up where I left off as I switch devices. Or, perhaps they could enable DLNA or some other form of streaming from the phone to the Google TV.

Then, there are apps that simply take advnatage of the fact that Google TVs will typically have rather large screens. Somebody should write the “magnifier” app (if they haven’t written one already), that uses the camera preview and optical zoom capabilities of a smartphone to project the image on a Google TV. This would be useful for those with impaired vision to be able to read smaller print, perhaps easier than with a traditional magnifying glass.

Plus, of course, there are all the “edutainment” apps, the “big screen streaming player” apps, the games, and whatnot that make obvious sense in a media consumption environment like a TV.

There’s a decent chance that there will be some “first mover” advantages with Google TV. For example, it may be that apps will have to declare support for extra-large screen sizes, and those that do not are filtered from the Market or are relegated to a secondary roster. Forward-thinking developers that do much of the legwork now on vanilla Android, then quickly move to Google TV when the SDK add-on (or whatever) is available, may be able to set themselves up in a dominant position in this new area.

So, put your mind to it, people!

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