It sure sounds like Google is re-committing to the TV space with Google TV—a renamed, revamped version of Android TV. In addition to the new content-centric (instead of app-centric) home screen, watch list, and an upcoming “dumb TV” mode, Google is now revamping parental control support.
The new “kids profiles” will turn on a fun, kid-friendly UI with themes like “dinosaurs,” “space,” and “under the sea.” The big, new feature of Google TV—content-centric recommendations—will kick over into a kids-friendly mode, too, pushing educational content to the home screen.
Parental control functionality looks pretty much the same as in Android TV, with parents able to set limitations on total screen time, bedtime, and individual apps. The big difference is the interface, which has a friendlier UI that doesn’t look like a system administrator panel anymore. The controls are also compatible with Google’s Family Link app, which allows for remote administration and tracking.
Kids mode looks like a baby step toward solving Google TV’s biggest problem right now: the lack of support for multiple profiles. The flagship feature of Google TV is the home screen content recommendation engine, but there’s no differentiation between users, so it’s going to mash up the entire household’s viewing habits. Google lightly copped to this deficiency in the blog post, saying, “I personally want to be able to find my shows and movies, without being overwhelmed by my kids’ content.”
Kids mode will let you quarantine Sesame Street from your recommendations, but there’s still no way to separate the viewing habits between adults. Hopefully, kids mode is the beginning of full-blown profile support with personalized recommendations and watchlists, but Google hasn’t come out and said that.
Google TV is currently very rare, available mainly (only?) on the new “Google Chromecast with Google TV” that launched in September. It’s also headed to Sony’s entire Bravia XR 2021 lineup and select TCL TVs coming out later this year. Google’s decision to change the name of its TV product from Android TV to Google TV makes everything unnecessarily confusing, but it’s all the same code base. Google’s TV OSes based on Android 9 and lower are called “Android TV,” and the new versions, based on Android 10 and up, are “Google TV.” In theory, some Android TV set-top boxes and smart TVs can be upgraded to Google TV, since it’s just the next version. Your device manufacturer would need to actually ship an update, though, and a lot of smart TV manufacturers don’t.
Google says that support for kids profiles on Google TV will roll out “in the US starting this month and globally over the next few months.”