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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Google May Add Home Workouts to Its Smart TV Offerings

Just like those fitness-obsessed television hosts Hans and Franz, Google wants to pump you up.

The company is hatching plans to add fitness-tracking tech and support for interactive home workouts to its Android TV platform, and to incorporate those software features into smart TVs running other companies’ software as well. If the vision comes to fruition, supported smart TVs would sync with Fitbit trackers and smartwatches running Google’s Wear OS—such as the Samsung Galaxy Watch or Google Pixel Watch—which could be used to monitor a user’s progress through a series of living room workouts. It’ll be like watching a Richard Simmons or Billy Blanks video that can also track your reps and measure your heart rate.

The specifics of how it will work aren’t clear, as the news—first reported by Protocol—came from a private meeting Google held with other smart-home companies. Still, it’s obvious that Google’s moving to compete with smart-home fitness services like Apple Fitness+, which utilizes an Apple Watch and an Apple TV, as well as devices like Mirror and Peloton’s Guide.

According to Protocol, this initiative could also include expanded ability to connect Nest speakers or other wireless speakers with your Google-powered TV. The report also says these changes will most likely arrive in 2023.

Google is a couple years behind the big shift to working out from home that came at the beginning of the pandemic. But this offering could also be seen as part of Google’s effort to smush all its products together. Fusing smart-home tech with Android, Wear OS, and Android TV means your Google stuff gets used more often and in more combinations.

Here’s what else you need to know about the week in consumer tech.

Google Calls Out Apple’s Texting

In more Google news, the company put out a confrontational PSA earlier this week calling on Apple to change the fundamental standards it uses for its text messages. Apple converts messages to non-Apple devices into standard SMS messages, as opposed to using the more richly featured RCS standard Google started pushing heavily last year. Because of that, some crucial metadata can get lost in translation between the platforms.

Google framed Apple’s decision to not support RCS as a power move, blaming Apple for not adhering to more modern standards. In reality, it’s likely an attempt to level the playing field between Apple and Google when it comes to inter-device messaging, where the former enjoys significant competitive advantages over the latter; iPhone-to-iPhone messaging comes with a dizzying number of add-ons and special features that Apple devotees are loath to give up. It’s also ironic to hear such a plea coming from Google, a company that has introduced a dozen different messaging apps over the years and can’t even keep the name of its messaging products right. Undeterred, Google took its campaign to social media, trying to get other people to jump on board. Now Google’s just waiting to get a response that Apple “loved this message.”

Ring Ring

Ring camera videos are controversial. The Amazon-owned company collects data about both its users and people caught on camera, then can share those videos with law enforcement without user consent. Still, the videos themselves have captured people’s attention. There’s a whole genre of viral videos (yes, on TikTok) that revels in the wacky antics of people and pets caught on Ring cameras. Now, Amazon is looking to turn those clips into a whole show.

Called Ring Nation, the show will be hosted by comedian Wanda Sykes. The content will be pretty much what you’d expect: a collection of funny and/or horrifying videos of the kind of mayhem that happens on people’s porches and in their yards. The show is produced by Big Fish Entertainment, the same production company that created Live PD, a police documentary show that was canceled in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in 2020. Ring Nation comes out September 26.

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It’s probably unrelated that Amazon is also planning to start offering mental health services.

Unpacking Unpacked

You’d be forgiven if you weren’t wowed by the new devices Samsung announced at its Galaxy Unpacked event this week. The new foldable phones, watches, and earbuds saw improvements to battery life and some slight design tweaks—altogether a modest showing from one of the world’s biggest phone manufacturers. Still, Samsung’s design decisions can give clues to what’s on the horizon for phones and the software that runs on them.

This week's episode of WIRED's Gadget Lab podcast is all about Samsung, the future of Android, and which other companies may be planning to sell foldables in the near future. Have a listen!

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