The NVIDIA Shield TV may be a few years old at this point, but it’s still one of the most powerful Android TV boxes on the market… and it keeps getting more versatile.
Today NVIDIA rolled out software version 6.0, which brings support for Google Assistant and the option to plug in a SmartThings Link dongle to turn the TV box into a home automation hub.
I got a chance to check out a Shield TV running the latest software, and while it was a bit too noisy to really test the Google Assistant feature, I got an overview of how it works.
The Shield currently comes in a few configurations: for $179 you can get a Shield TV with just a multimedia remote. Or for $199 you can get a model with both a multimedia remote and a game controller.
The remote has a microphone button that you can press to issue voice commands, and now that Assistant is baked-in, that means you can get news and weather updates, check sports scores, ask questions, and of course, control media playback.
“Play Game of Thrones” will play the HBO show. “Pause” will pause. And “turn off” will power down the system, among other things.
If you have the game controller, you also have the option of enabling always-listening support so that you don’t have to press a button. You can just say “OK Google” when you’re near the controller to issue commands just like you would with a phone or Google Home device.
NVIDIA says the gamepad gets up to 2 weeks of battery life in standby if always-listening is enabled, and up to a month if it’s not. Of course, if you actually play games you’ll probably need to charge it a bit more often than that.
As for the SmartThings USB dongle, it adds support for smart home products that use Z-Wave or Zigbee protocols, and all the hardware is in the USB stick itself, which means that you can add the functionality to a Shield TV for as little as $15 (that’s the pre-order price, but the full list price is $40).
Since the stick is kind of wide, it also comes with a short USB extension cord so that you can plug it into the Shield TV without blocking the device’s other ports.
Once connected, you can use the SmartThings Link to connect to devices including smart light bulbs, thermostats, and home security systems, receive alerts on your Shield TV, monitor everything using a SmartTHings app for iOS or Android, and use Google Assistant for voice commands.
You can also automate tasks such as turning on the lights or locking the doors at certain times, and you can set routines that let you do things like turn on the lights and start the coffee maker when you say “good morning.”