Vysor: Debugging Your Android TV Without a Monitor

I’m on winter break from my university right now, which means I have moved about half of my stuff back home. I didn’t take my TV with me, it was big and wasn’t really necessary. Although I do plan on doing some development with my ADT-1 this break, I don’t actually need a TV to test apps. I’ll explain how you can remote control your Android TV, and even see what’s going on, without a monitor or even a debugging cable.


Vysor 1

First you will have to go to the Chrome App Store and install Vysor. It is an app written by Koush that can help you in debugging. When you plug in a device and start debugging, a window will pop up on your laptop. Vysor detects these devices and will show you exactly what’s on the screen at that moment. It silently installs an app on your device to help in the remote connection. There are some options to quickly take a screenshot and other simple actions.

As you can see above, I have the ability both view and control every part of the TV using my laptop. I can still use the gamepad to navigate, or I can use my keyboard’s DPAD to move around. Instead of using an onscreen keyboard, I can use my laptop keyboard. My mouse acts as a finger, allowing me to click things and swipe. Android TV wasn’t built to work with a mouse or a finger, but it’s still a really neat trick if you want to use some sideloaded apps.

Vysor 2

There are buttons along the bottom to go home, back, or open recent apps. These are designed primarily for phones, as the TV doesn’t have an overview screen. You can also use the Home key to go home and the Escape key to go back if you’re more accustomed to a keyboard.

Vysor 3

This is a great way for me to debug apps. As you can above, I’m working on a weather app on Android TV and I can see what’s happening without a separate monitor. The image quality isn’t always great. It can be pixelated with a lot of movement, and there is a noticeable delay between pressing a key and seeing a change. There’s no support for audio pass-through either. While this doesn’t work in a lot of conditions, like testing games, it does help you test code and see its results before hooking it up to a TV to test the user experience.

Wi-Fi Debugging

If you don’t want to mess around with cables, you can use Wi-Fi debugging. As long as you’re on the same Wi-Fi network, you can connect to your Android TV and upload an app. Vysor still works, so you can connect to your Android TV remotely and debug it. Wireless debugging requires you to enter a few commands in a terminal.

adb tcpip 5555
adb connect {device-ip-address}

Vysor 4

Now I’m connected again, but without having to use a USB cable. I can set my ADT-1 in a corner and let it run while I sit elsewhere in the house. The experience is roughly the same.

You have to make sure your device is configured for debugging and you’ve enabled your laptop/desktop in the past. If not, Vysor will not work because your device won’t be able to connect. You’ll need to either connect to a TV to see and confirm the dialog, or try to figure it out on your own.

It’s a nifty app that is still technically in beta. Koush is a skilled developer who will continue to support this app. Maybe a future update will change the UI for TVs so that the buttons make more sense. There are more things coming, as well as a supposed subscription model for more features, but those haven’t been announced yet. Regardless, this development solution already works on Android TV, so it’s likely going to get better over time.

Nick Felker

Nick Felker

Nick Felker is a student Electrical & Computer Engineering student at Rowan University (C/O 2017) and the student IEEE webmaster. When he's not studying, he is a software developer for the web and Android (Felker Tech). He has several open source projects on GitHub (http://github.com/fleker) Devices: Moto G-2013 Moto G-2015, Moto 360, Google ADT-1, Nexus 7-2013 (x2), Lenovo Laptop, Custom Desktop. Although he was an intern at Google, the content of this blog is entirely independent and his own thoughts.

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