Google’s booth at CES is usually fun and interactive, as well as informative. At CES 2023, Google announced many new features, including more ways to keep all your devices and media under one roof. Most importantly, it contained important updates for the Android Auto system.
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CHERLYNN LOW: For the past several years, Google has used CES as a venue to showcase its idea of a world that’s better together. This is the name of the vision Google uses, basically saying that anything that isn’t Apple can play well together. This year at CES 2023, the company announced a number of updates, including a recap of the recent advances in Better Together, as well as two new announcements.
So, they’re working with Spotify to integrate Spotify Connect tools into the Android UI. And second, it previewed something called Surrounding Suggestions or Notifications. And the idea is that you’ve, say, just entered your home and you’ve got music playing through your headphones, you step in your door and undress and take off your stuff, a Google Assistant will say, hey, usually, you will afterwards sitting on the couch and want to stream your music to your smart home speaker in there.
We looked at some sort of very controlled demo, it didn’t seem to really work, work. And we’ve been told that this is a future feature coming. No word on timing yet. But it’s interesting to see.
Google usually has one of the funnier booths at CES too. In one year they went on a kind of roller coaster ride. On the other hand, there were such large ball pools everywhere. This year it feels a bit tame in comparison.
The most exciting thing, at least for me, were the two luxury cars that were on the stand and showed two different things. One was the Volvo EX90 with Google built-in. And the other was a BMW i7 with a new version of Android Auto first announced at Google I/O last year.
Well, this is actually the first time we’ve seen this version of Android Auto in public. The software is in closed beta. So maybe there are people who saw it. But this is again the first public demo.
Now, the biggest changes here are that the Android auto UI can now be expanded or resized to fit screens of any size. It now has a split-screen interface, with the right-hand side or column being sort of more intuitive, or more like a place where Google Assistant suggests apps or notifications based on what it knows you’re doing. In our demo we saw that most of the time was taken up by Spotify, because who doesn’t want to be looking at their jams while driving on the six-hour road trip. But you can swipe from the right for a list of suggested playlists if you get tired of your songs.
There’s also now a new set of buttons on the left side of the screen. From top to bottom, the first three show you a your last used music app, b your last used navigation app and c your last used communication app. Fourth on this list is just your most recently used app, whether it’s your calendar or a calculator. Below that is a shortcut button for the Google Assistant, but you can also access it via voice commands or a button on the steering wheel.
There are also some interface tweaks in Android Auto. First off, instead of having a status bar across the top of the entire screen, which is always a blank space, Google has moved some of those status icons to the top-left corner. It’s also changed how it handles notifications, incoming alerts, and so on. For example, when you receive a text message, it will appear over what’s on your main screen as usual. You can sort of dismiss it with a swipe, but you can’t get rid of it completely. It will live in the right column I mentioned earlier and stay there until you’re ready to engage with a message.
The beauty of this adjustable screen size format is that if you want an app to take up a full screen mode instead of having that split screen mode, you can just tap and expand the app icon in the left taskbar and really be the focus of yours drive. This is interesting to see, especially with an updated version of CarPlay on the horizon. Apple announced at WWDC that it is making changes to its automotive interface. We still haven’t seen it. At least Google has beaten Apple on that front.
That’s really all Google has to offer here at CES 2023. If you want the full details on Spotify Connect and the Ambien notification feature I told you about, be sure to check out our news articles on engadget.com. And for all the news from CES 2023, stay tuned to Engadget.