Google Android may have started off as a smartphone operating system, but the software now powers tablets, set-top-boxes running Google TV, and even some laptops. Now Google is embracing the expansion of the Android platform with a few new announcements.
First, Google is baking USB host support into Android 3.1 and launching an Android Open Accessory program. Initially that means you’ll be able to:
- Connect a camera to an Android device and copy photos to your phone or tablet over a USB connection.
- Plug in a keyboard or mouse.
- Use a video game controller, including Playstation 2 or Xbox 360 controllers with an Android tablet.
But eventually the Open Accessory program will allow developers to use new Android APIs to write apps that let hardware communicate with Android devices in interesting ways.
For instance, when you plug in a peripheral, your tablet could automatically launch an application. Imaging plugging in a MIDI keyboard and automatically having a music recording and mixing application pop up. The API will also make it possible to plug in a peripheral and have your Android device go online to look for the appropriate software.
Google even showed off an exercise bicycle that could interact with an Android phone today.
At launch USB connections will be supported, but eventually the Open Accessory program will also support Bluetooth connections.
Google has also introduced a new Android Open Accessory Development Kit (ADK) based on an Arduino board. This will allow developers to create all sorts of peripherals that can change the way you interact with Android devices.
Imagine your phone being the brains of anything from a home stereo system to a robotic vacuum cleaner.
Android 2.3.4 and Android 3.1 already support the Open Accessory API.
But expanding the capabilities of phones and tablets is just the tip of the iceberg. Google also introduced Android@Home, showing how the Android operating system could work as the foundation for a home automation service for controlling everything from light switches and alarm clocks to home appliances.
Meanwhile a new Google Tungsten platform will let Google Music users stream audio to connected stereo systems throughout the house.