SAN FRANCISCO--Google announced a collection of efforts to put its Android devices at the center of a host of electronically connected devices--everything from home lighting and irrigation systems to game controllers and keyboards.
It also revealed at the Google I/O show here a small Android device called Project Tungsten that can connect to speakers and home stereo systems to stream music from Google's new cloud-based music system.
Using near-field communications (NFC), Google demonstrated using Tungsten to play music. Touching a CD to a Tungsten device activates the music on a person's cloud-based music library in about a second, and touching it again starts playing the music. Getting CD manufacturers to put NFC abilities into CD cases wouldn't be easy, but the interface was a lot slicker than navigating endless submenus to get to the music you want.
One big deal coming in anis the ability to make an Android device a USB host. That means people can plug USB devices into it.
For tablets, that means they can more easily replicate PC abilities such as fast typing on a keyboard, or game console experiences with a game-specific controller. It also means photos and videos can be directly uploaded from cameras.
One gigantic demo being shown at Google I/O: a giant tilting labyrinth-style game big enough to hold a person and a marble the size of a bowling ball.
Google also announced a home automation initiative for Android. With it, people can control lights, irrigation systems, and whatever else is electronically reachable. Google is working on a new protocol to attach such devices and manage communication. And while it works with USB to start, Google plans a Bluetooth interface later.
Google demonstrated the home automation technology with an exercise bike. The faster a person pedaled, the better he fared in a basic Android game.
Honeycomb runs on tablets only today, but Google plans to release a related version called Ice Cream Sandwich for phones, too, in the fourth quarter.