Announcing the Interactive Television Lab

Android TV is one of many smart TV platforms in its infancy. While TVs themselves have existed for many decades, integrating a more robust operating system into them and adding an open application platform has created a huge realm of unexplored opportunities. Although there have been a handful of developers which have taken advantage of the larger screen, the full potential of smart TV apps has not been explored. In order to further this exploration and foster a larger developer community, we are forming the Interactive Television Lab.

This started in quiet last month, slowly posting code into our GitHub organization. There are a number of ideas that have been discussed, and not very much developer time to do it. By opening up our projects to the community, we’re hoping to find more contributors and have them use these projects to improve even more apps.

Today we are publishing the first app of this development, the Tv App Repository. This app will provide a number of services for users to aid in sideloading apps. You can take a look at our hands-on for more information.

In addition to just publishing apps, most of which will be available on the Google Play Store, this organization will also help developers through providing libraries of common code for things like file pickers and other kinds of utilities which will allow for better Android TV apps for everyone.

We don’t want to be the only source of Android TV apps and libraries. Ideally this support is built-in to each library and app on its own. However, without developers vouching for TV and gamepad support, these changes may never be made. If you are a developer for Android TV, or just want to check it out, feel free to visit the organization or one of the projects and start helping out. While I have been putting in the bulk of the work thus far, this is meant to be an open community.

Developers, have you had any trouble implementing a certain feature in TV? Have you developed a workaround? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. I’d like to get your input.

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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  • Andreas Setterlind

    @Nick, can I suggest that you as a project for ITVLAB make a ‘PVR backend’ (TV server) app for Android and an accompanying ‘PVR client’ addon for Kodi/XBMC?

    As you probably know, Kodi (formerly XBMC) is very popular frontend media player app, but what you might not know is that its GUI also features Live TV interface with EPG and PVR/DVR control, and that this function in Kodi uses as server-client model so that Kodi only acts as a frontend/client and does not actually feature any native TV-tuning or recording functions itself but instead relies on different third-party software to act a “PVR backend” (TV servers) which does the actual TV-tuning and recording. For this Kodi’s server-client model feature a native PVR API for which you have to make a “PVR client addon” as a kind of middleware for each “PVR backend” that it should connect to (over the network).

    Interestingly enough, even though Android OS (and Android TV specifically) is the most popular platform for Kodi, there is not yet a “PVR client addon” for Kodi that supports connecting to a “PVR backend” application that runs natively on Android OS.

    You can read a nice summery of the concept here: http://kodi.wiki/view/PVR and find the source code for most existing PVR client addons here https://github.com/kodi-pvr (which are all binary addons written in C++ or C, though I read there is also an PVR clien addon written in Python in the works however it still uses C++ to interface with Kodi’s PVR API.

    Suggestions for a “PVR backend” application that runs natively on Android OS and have a “PVR client addon” for Kodi have been requested many times on Kodi’s community forum, checkout examples: http://forum.kodi.tv/showthread.php?tid=263879 and http://forum.kodi.tv/showthread.php?tid=182218

    If the ITVLAB project could make a “PVR backend” application with TV tuning (and recoding functionality) with locally attached USB TV-tuners which runs natively on Android OS and also have a “PVR client addon” for Kodi that it is my prediction that it would quickly become one of the most popular addons ever.

    What do you think?