Buried within the Google I/O 2019 keynote presentation yesterday was a snippet on YouTube TV and its improved functionality for smart display users.
Google confirmed that better YouTube TV integration is coming to at least one smart display through the use of a new on-screen guide.
Once live, the user will simply be able to say "what's on TV" and the on-screen guide will surface allowing the user to browse what's currently being aired on the live TV channels included with a YouTube TV subscription.
While this might sound like something quite basic, it is a feature that has been missing from smart displays in the past and one which will greatly improve the overall experience.
Smart display users are already able to cast content from various apps to a smart display, but generally speaking, the level of compatible app support is limited compared to other cast-enabled devices.
One of the apps you can cast from with relatively few issues is YouTube TV. Of course, this does require you to use your smartphone which in many ways reduces the use of the smart display to just a display.
This is particularly true if you do not know what is on TV at the time as you would have to navigate the phone interface and guide, select the content, and then cast that content to the smart display.
The same is true when switching channels as you would need to go back to your smartphones, peruse the guide again and then channel hop.
Aspects like these is where the new change will make the most difference as the simple "what's on TV" command will allow the user to view the options by just using a voice command and then select the channel via the smart display interface.
So far the new feature has been discussed entirely in terms of the Nest Hub product line. During I/O 2019 Google announced a rebranding of the Google Home line to Nest. This included the rebranding of the existing Google Home Hub smart display to the Google Nest Hub smart display, as well as the official unveiling of a newer, larger and more feature-rich model, the Nest Hub Max.
At present there has been no firm commitment that the on-screen guide will become available on third-party, Google-endorsed smart displays. However, it would seem highly likely it will roll out to all Assistant-enabled smart displays as Google will want to enrich the experience it offers to YouTube TV subscribers, irrespective of which device they are using.
One feature that might not become available through those other devices is the improved use of gestures.
During the same presentation, Google showcased how users can use a hand gesture to stop content playback on the Nest Hub line of products. Essentially, omitting the need to issue verbal commands loud enough so the smart display hears the user over the volume of the content playing.
When these individual features are taken collectively, it becomes clearer that Google is now looking to position its own smart display line as an enriched kitchen TV solution.
That is, on top of the digital photo frame solution Google positioned smart displays as last year.