Google Assistant comes to the Nvidia Shield TV

Photo: Dan Seifert / The Verge

Nvidia is today releasing version 6.0 of its software for the Shield TV set top box, which brings along the Google Assistant. First announced back at CES in January, Google Assistant on the Nvidia Shield TV allows for hands-free control of media playback, voice search, and smart home control. The Shield TV is the first Android TV device to get the full Google Assistant experience; Google says it will also come to Sony Bravia TVs with Android TV in the coming months.

Google Assistant on the Shield TV may sound very similar to the Google Voice Search that was available in prior versions, but it has been enhanced with a cleaner visual design and more capabilities. Nvidia says that apart from a handful of functions, such as timers, alarms, and phone calls, the Assistant on the Shield TV can do everything that it can do on the Google Home.

For media control, the Google Assistant can cast audio to the Google Home or other Google Cast speakers. It can be used to play, pause, skip, fast-forward, or adjust the volume while watching something. It also has deep integration within apps, so it can surface content directly from Netflix, HBO, and others.

Image: Nvidia

The advantage that the Assistant has on the TV over a Google Home is that in addition to audio feedback, answers can be displayed on a big screen. A request for a weather report will be accompanied by a visual five-day forecast, while asking what’s on my agenda can show my calendar appointments right on the TV’s screen. It’s a lot like how Google Assistant works on a phone, where it can display more information and follow-up suggestions.

Google Assistant on Android TV can be used to access Assistant apps, such as Tender for cocktail suggestions or Fitstar for workout guidance. It can control smart home gadgets, such as lights or thermostats that work with Google Assistant. It can even be used to turn the TV off or control the volume, if your TV has the right HDMI CEC support.

In addition, with the Shield’s gaming controller and its built-in microphone, Google Assistant can be activated hands-free with a “Hey Google” or “OK Google” voice command, just like on the Google Home speaker. The hands-free voice commands even work when the TV is powered off, making the Shield very similar in functionality to the Google Home. Nvidia notes that while other set top boxes have voice assistants or voice control, the Shield is the only one that is fully hands-free.

Along with the Google Assistant upgrade, Nvidia is also partnering with Samsung’s SmartThings division to add more smart home control to the Shield TV. A dongle will soon be available that plugs into one of the Shield’s USB ports and acts as a SmartThings hub to allow control of Zigbee and Z-Wave smarthome devices. The dongle, which will sell for $39.99, but is available for $14.99 as part of a launch promotion, provides the Shield with the full capabilities of the standalone SmartThings hub.

One thing that Nvidia isn’t ready to talk about is the Spot device that was also announced at CES. The Spot is a peripheral microphone that plugs into a wall outlet and provides access to the Shield’s Google Assistant in other rooms of you home. The company did not have any information to share on when the Spot will be available or how much it will cost when I asked.

The Shield 6.0 software is available to download on all Shield TV devices starting today. Nvidia says that new and existing owners of the Shield TV will receive three months of YouTube Red for free as part of the update.

Comments

One more reason to add the Shield TV to The Verge’s streaming box recommendations

Or to keep ignoring it you know.

So Nilay actually said on the Vergecast that he would review it since he got so much flack on the Apple TV 4K review comments. I hope he gives it a fair shake.

It’s already going to get dinged for not having Dolby Vision. Also, it’s not Apple.

5/10, no AirPlay.

Chromecast built in. Who needs AirPlay?

I think he forgot the /s, or you missed the sarcasm since he’s replying to "not Apple"

Ah, ok.

My online /s detector really sucks.

Also, if you REALLY want AirPlay…

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.waxrain.airplaydmr2

Want to show me where you can add Chromecast capabilities to an Apple TV?

Just so we’re all clear here, what point are you trying to make?

I don’t understand your comment about it getting dinged for not being Apple.

With Nilay specifically, there seems to be a bias against all things Google related. It comes out more in the podcasts (more so when Ctrl-Walt-Delete was a thing).

Clear enough? I thought that it would have been more evident without having to spell it out, but if that was your goal, then there it is.

except he is constantly praising the Pixel and wants to get the Pixel 2. I think your bias is showing.

Really? I’ve listened to every vergecast since the Pixel was released and he, at most, gives it a compliment in passing.

He wanted to buy one when it came out but it was impossible to find.

He’s said that many times since then. If he really wanted one, he definitely could have found one.

In passing?? LOL. He’s kept whinging about how he couldn’t get a Pixel and how he wanted it. And also how the only thing keeping him on the iPhone was iMessage…..real lock-in there.

I think your bias is showing.

Maybe. I’m unusually salty about this Shield situation on the verge.

Everyone loves to come at The Verge for having some sort of pro-apple bias. But also…
everyone loves to come at The Verge for having some sort of pro-google bias. (or anti apple as it were).

The truth might in fact be people not realizing their own bias when they read a review they don’t agree with. The truth is praise for an apple product and praise for a google product are not mutually exclusive.

I have been here since the beginning and follow many of the verge writers on twitter. The fact that Nilay uses some of these products personally outside of just review units doesn’t mean he has a bias toward that brand. He is constantly complaining about his own products.

Agreed, but the tone here, where he has final say, has changed considerably since JTop left. I’ve been here since the beginning as well.

Hope he doesn’t fall the down the hole of grading it far too heavily as a gaming device and not on the amazing versatility of the thing.

4K HDR, Kodi, Plex, game streaming, emulators, and now Assistant.

What an amazing device. Too bad I have to factory reset it since the ESPN App is bugging out on mine and won’t open

Agreed. I barely use it for gaming since I have a gaming desktop. GameStream is nice, but I still prefer a keyboard and mouse. The combination of every other feature more than justifies the price.

I hope he gives it a fair shake.

Unlikely. Truly differentiating features like the TV input framework, DVR capabilities (both OTA and cable card), GeForce Now, and Plex Server support will be glossed over at best or ignored at worst.

Nvidia Shield TV is HANDS DOWN the best purchase I’ve made in the last 2 years. I bought it as a measly "Kodi box".. and since then it became my Plex Server, Chromecast, Netflix 4K HDR, Amazon 4K HDR (probably only platform that supports it other than Fire devices and Roku?), GameStream client (streaming games from my desktop).. and now this?

This is awesome!

How could I forget? By FAR the best Plex client out there, including audio passthrough support.

Wait, can it actually serve as a Plex server itself, or just a client? Been looking for something handy to replace my old laptop that I always keep on and plugged in solely for Plex.

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