In a blog post, Greg Funk and Eric Liu, product managers at Google, said the update encompassed three main features. The first is voice search – from now on, there'll be no more fumbling with the remote. Simply shout "Red Sox" in the direction of the television, hope your neighbors don't think you're batty, and wait for an image of Fenway Park to appear.
The second feature is an app called PrimeTime – a kind of hyper-muscular interactive TV guide with a built-in recommendation engine.
With PrimeTime, Funk and Liu write, "you can quickly flip through the best stuff on live TV, access your favorite channels, see TV shows you recently watched, and find other suggestions based on what you enjoy watching."
Third feature: improved YouTube integration. With a new YouTube app, you can find a video on your smartphone, and beam it immediately up to the TV set.
"The world watches 4 billion hours of YouTube per month, but it’s not yet as easy to watch YouTube on your TV as it is on your computers, phones, and tablets," Funk and Liu note. "YouTube and Google TV are changing that."
Google says the update will roll out for LG TVs in the "coming weeks," and other devices shortly after that. More on availability here.
When it first launched, in October of 2010, Google TV was criticized for being far too complex for most users. Last year, Google issued a sweeping update meant to simplify the interface. But some reviewers were still unappeased. Google TV, TechCrunch noted in a 2011 assessment, was "teetering on a ledge between falling into an abyss of obscurity or sliding downhill into geekdom."
So will the 2012 update give Google TV the jolt it needs?
Well, over at CNET, Casey Newton is cautiously hopeful.
"Individually, none of the new features seem likely to attract new Google TV users by the millions," Newton argues. "But taken together, they show a company determined to get television right. These are hardly early days in connected TV – WebTV dates to the mid-'90s – but we may be in the early days of widespread consumer adoption. Between Apple, Google, Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, and Roku, there have never been more large electronics companies pouring resources into a strategy for living-room domination."
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