Ars Technica has their 2014 Google Tracker up and running — a list of things to look for from the search giant this year. After the failure of the universally unloved Google TV, it looks like they might be reaching for the living room once more:
One of Google’s recent moves that could help with a Kinect-style interface is the acquisition of Flutter, a company that specialized in gesture recognition. While the Kinect recognizes gestures using $150 worth of cameras, infrared fields, and processors, Flutter could detect hand gestures using only a stock webcam. Of course, Flutter wasn’t nearly as robust as the Kinect, but it was surprisingly capable while using a minimal amount of hardware. A thumb gesture left or right would trigger “previous” or “next” commands, and a “hand up” gesture would do play and pause. That’s not nearly enough to control a television interface, but with a little more hardware, the Flutter team could probably come up with a way to navigate a UI.
We’ve also heard a report (subscription required) from the same Journal writers (now at The Information) claiming that a set-top-box called the “Nexus TV” is in the works—likely the same device as the game console. The Information stated the device is on track to launch in the first half of this year. While Google TV has hung around for a few years, Google has never taken the project seriously or put a ton of resources behind it. The Google TV folks never decided on a decent input device, and the software design is nowhere near the standard set by other Google interfaces—Google TV is one of the ugliest products Google makes. A “Nexus TV” would basically be a revamped, rebranded version of Google TV.
At some point somebody is really going to crack the living room wide open. Sony and Microsoft have both made really good stabs at it with their gaming consoles, but consoles are an increasingly niche purchase. Apple TV is affordable and easy to use, but it doesn’t (quite yet) actually do all that much. Same goes for Roku’s nice little boxes.
The gaming consoles cost too much and don’t have wide enough appeal to be in every living room. The Roku’s and Apple’s offerings are inexpensive, but still more expensive than the “free” set-top boxes most people don’t realize they’re actually renting from their cable or satellite provider.
There’s got to be a third way, but nobody has found it yet. But we have some imaginative companies with deep pockets all plugging away at a solution.