Google and JBL have teamed up to create the “industry’s first soundbar powered by Android TV with the Google Assistant built in”. The JBL Link Bar can turn any TV into a connected TV.
Google and JBL team up
The Android TV platform is coming to new form factors with the JBL Link Bar that will be released later this year. It has been announced as part of the Google I/O conference and was created in collaboration between Google and Harman/JBL.
- “The Link Bar will be the industry’s first soundbar powered by Android TV with the Google Assistant built in. It’s designed to combine JBL’s audio expertise and Android TV’s plethora of content, delivering a smarter way to watch your favorite content with best-in-class sound. The LINK BAR turns any TV, regardless of make or model, into a Smart TV,” Harman who own the JBL brand announced.
By having the ‘Android TV’ platform built into a soundbar you can turn any TV into a connected device with access to the TV section of the Google Play store. From here you can download streaming apps such as Netflix, HBO, Hulu, and YouTube as well as games.
The soundbar also comes with integrated microphones for Google Assistant functionality that allows you to control it via voice commands. When it is not pumping out TV audio, it can be used as a music speaker that can enter into an existing multi-room setup (via Chromecast).
The JBL Link Bar can control the TV via HDMI CEC, enabling users to turn on and off their TV via the remote control or voice commands such as “Okay Google, turn off TV”. It has 3 HDMI ports that allow users to connect external players or game consoles, and likewise users can switch between these using the remote control or by using voice commands.
JBL did not detail audio specifications but did say that a separate subwoofer will be available as an optional buy.
First in a series of hybrid devices
The Android TV platform is already available in TVs from Sony, Philips, TCL, and Hisense as well as external players such as Nvidia Shield and Xiaomi Mi Box. Google explains that it is looking to expand the footprint and that the JBL soundbar is "the first in a series of hybrid devices that delivers a full Assistant speaker and Android TV experience".
In a sense this is also Samsung’s first Android TV device. JBL is part of the Harman Group that was recently acquired by Samsung. The South Korean company is using its in-house Tizen platform in all of its Smart TVs.
The soundbar space seems to be heating up these days as people are searching for better TV audio experiences that fit a modern living space. At CES 2018, Roku announced that it had partnered with TCL to sell the first Roku-based “smart soundbar”. Sonos is also expected to announce a new soundbar on June 6.
The JBL Link soundbar will be available later this year, with pricing and specifications to be announced in the second half of the year.
The annual Google I/O conference will officially kick off only a few hours from now and Google is also expected to detail how the Android TV operating system will evolve with the release of Android P.