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Your Google I/O entertainment tech cheat sheet

AI video, in-car casting and more

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Welcome to Lowpass! This week: From Generative video to AI AR, all the things you may have missed at Google I/O.

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Everything you may have missed at Google I/O

Google’s annual I/O developer conference in Mountain View this week was all about AI. In fact, AI was such a central theme that Google CEO Sundar Pichai even joked about it on stage, noting that presenters had mentioned the term more than 120 times during the event’s two-hour opening keynote.

You may have seen the headlines about Google infusing search with AI, the company’s cool Astra demo, as well as a veritable word salad including Gemini, Gemini Pro, Gemini Flash, Gemini Advanced, Gemini Nano, Gemma and Gems. I swear, these are all real things. Or, rather, AI things.

With events like these, it’s easy to lose track of what’s important, especially if you’re not following the AI race too closely. However, Google did also make a number of notable announcements that are relevant to anyone working on (or interested in) the intersection of tech and entertainment. I went to Mountain View Tuesday to unearth those, uhm, gems:

Google is getting into generative video. The search giant has experimented with using AI to generate videos before, but now it’s getting ready to release a tool for creatives: Veo is able to generate 1080p videos in a variety of styles based on simple text prompts.

Think of it as Google’s version of OpenAI’s Sora, if you will. And just like OpenAI, Google also invited Hollywood insiders to give Veo a go. Among them was Donald Glover, who predicted that the tool would help to “make mistakes faster” as you iterate on shots.

  • Availability: Google is making Veo available to select creators, and has a waitlist for people interested in trying it out. The company also plans to integrate some of Veo’s capabilities into YouTube Shorts in the future.

Google TV and Android TV are getting picture-in-picture. Google will soon allow consumers to multitask on their TVs by loading apps in picture-in-picture mode. However, don’t expect to watch two things at once: Picture-in-picture will only be available to non-media apps, including apps for voice and video calls, smart home apps (think baby monitors), health apps and newstickers. Still, there should be lots of ways for media companies to innovate with these features. Imagine, for instance, a newsticker app that lets people monitor a current event while watching a movie, and then switch to a related video app when something happens that interests them.

  • Availability: Picture-in-picture is part of Android for TV 14, which is being made available to developers now, and will come to consumer Google TV and Android TV devices later this year. However, only TVs and streaming dongles with enough horsepower will support the feature.

YouTube on Android is getting AI superpowers. Android users will soon be able to “ask the video” they’re watching a question, which is a fancy way of saying that Google’s Gemini AI will use the video’s captions to answer your text chat questions, and ultimately allow you to skip watching the video. Helpful for consumers, potentially problematic for YouTube creators, as I explained in a story for Fast Company Wednesday.

  • Availability: The feature will come to Gemini on Android in the coming months.

Google Home gets APIs for third-party developers. The company’s smart home platform is opening up to outside app developers, who will be able to integrate smart home device control directly into their apps. And no, we’re not just talking about other smart home apps; Google specifically highlighted food delivery apps that may want to turn on the porch light when the driver arrives as one example. That makes me wonder: Which streaming service will be the first to sync their shows with your living room lights?

  • Availability: Google’s Home APIs are already available to select developers; the company has a waitlist to onboard additional partners.

Casting is coming to cars. Google’s latest update to its automotive platform includes bringing casting to cars that run the Android Automotive OS (the full-blown Android adaptation for in-car entertainment systems that doesn’t require a phone to run apps). With that update, people will be able to cast video apps to the car console when the vehicle is parked.

  • Availability: Car casting will come to Rivian trucks first, with plans to bring it to additional makes and models at some point.

Everyone can now be an AI DJ. Google has updated its generative music tools with a new DJ mode to create an endless stream of generative music that can be mixed on the fly, just like Marc Rebillet did during the Google I/O keynote pre-show.

Google is betting on AI for AR. Google has had a long and tortured history with AR, starting with the release of Google Glass in 2013 and leading all the way up to the reported recent cancellation of the company’s own AR glasses, and the subsequent layoffs affecting “a few hundred” employees working on such AR hardware. 

However, the company clearly hasn’t given up on AR wearables altogether, and appears to agree with Meta that AI is key to making AR glasses useful. On Tuesday, it previewed a new multimodal AI project dubbed Astra featuring an AI agent that responds to voice commands, visual input and even on-screen scribbling. The demo is very impressive and worth watching if you haven’t seen it yet – but it also included a cameo appearance of a pair of unannounced AR glasses.

Google’s unannounced AR glasses prototype, as shown during an Astra AI demo video.

Google DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis told the crowd in Mountain View Tuesday that Astra was being developed for phones as well as “new and exciting form factors like glasses.” A company spokesperson later told The Verge that those glasses were a “functional research prototype” from Google’s AR team without discussing further details. The glasses do look different from what Google showed off two years ago at I/O, and a close look at the device seems to suggest that it features monocular AR, meaning that the display is only present in the right lens.

More importantly, the inclusion of these glasses in the clip suggests that Google sees AI critical for the future of multimodal AR, much like Meta does. Meta’s new Ray-Bans already offer access to a multimodal AI agent that can take photos, send them to the cloud, and then describe or translate what’s shown. 

In Google’s demo, the AI analyzes video input as well, and responds to it with little to no delay, suggesting that the AI may be running locally on a phone that is connected to the glasses. This foreshadows a future in which AI can respond to questions about everything in your field of view instantaneously, unlocking all kinds of superpowers.

  • Availability: I wish I knew! No seriously, I do. Please get in touch if you happen to know more.

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Redbox’s corporate parent sees Q1 earnings crater

Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, the company that owns and operates Redbox’s DVD kiosks, hasn’t been able to file a complete Q1 earnings report yet because it’s been busy trying to sort out its troubled finances.

However, investors shouldn’t expect anything good: In a filing with the SEC, Chicken Soup estimated Wednesday that its Q1 revenue is around $27 million, which is $82 million lower than Q1 of 2023. It’s also $2 million below Chicken Soup’s Q1 2022 revenue, which was before the company acquired Redbox.

In other words: Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment is now making less money with Redbox than it did without it. That’s largely due to the massive amount of debt the company took on as part of that acquisition, which has resulted in a severe cash crunch.

Chicken Soup blamed its terrible Q1 earnings on “insufficient working capital and lack of new content in 2024,” but those are basically the same thing: Redbox kiosks haven’t gotten hasn’t seen any new movies in months because Chicken Soup can’t afford to buy new discs, as I first detailed in my report about Redbox’s rapid decline in March.

What else

Roku gets MLB Sunday Games. The streaming device maker will stream the games for free on its Roku Channel.

Netflix buys NFL Christmas Day games. Speaking of sports rights: Netflix will stream two NFL games exclusively over the holidays. Remember when Netflix execs used to insist that they weren’t really interested in live sports?

Sonos brings weather forecasts to its voice assistant. Instead of just plugging into another service, Sonos built a complex backend to power its forecasts. Kind of makes you wonder what’s next for Sonos Voice Control, doesn’t it?

YouTube’s CEO thinks YouTubers should get Emmys. “It’s time a creator won an Emmy,” argues Neal Mohan in an op-ed for The Hollywood Reporter.

Meta’s Quest gets a travel mode. The VR headset can now be used on planes, just like Apple’s Vision Pro.

Netflix now has 40 million ad-supported viewers. The company revealed this latest milestone at the Upfronts, where it also announced that it will built its own ad tech.

TiVo TVs are coming to a shelf near you. Smart TVs powered by TiVo’s operating system will be available in the U.S. before the end of the year.

Tubi is now almost as popular as Disney+. That’s accoeding to Nielsen’s latest The Gauge, which Tubi CEO Anjali Sud bragged about on LinkedIn. Can you blame her?

That’s it

I had forgotten how exhausting in-person events can be … which is why I’m keeping this short: If you’re still wondering what to binge on this coming weekend, I’d suggest you give “Extraordinary” on Hulu a try. It’s a show about a very much ordinary person in a world where everyone else has superpowers, and it’s funny, raunchy, full of subtle physical comedy, and a whole lot of fun!

Thanks for reading, have a great weekend!

Photos courtesy of Google.

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