Smart speakers and smart TV boxes have lived apart for quite a while, which is a shame because both of them have become integral parts of the home TV experience. Now Google and JBL have partnered up for the Link Bar, a hybrid device that combines both worlds.
At first glance the Link Bar is your typical sound bar, but it also comes packed in with not just Google Assistant, which turns it into a very long smart speaker, but Android TV as well.
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This essentially lets Assistant control your TV experience. So you can ask Google to play the latest Golden State Warriors game on ESPN or even search for makeup tutorials on YouTube. It's not just commands either, as you'll be able to ask questions as you would on any other Assistant device, like "What's that new Star Trek show called?", ask it about overtime rules, or get it to order you more popcorn.
The Link Bar connects to your TV via HDMI but it doesn't need the TV to be on to function. So you can still use it as a regular smart speaker, asking Assistant whatever you want and playing music. There's also HDMI input, so you can switch inputs by asking Google.
Sonos is also working on a version of this hybrid speaker with its own sound bar. However, rather than use Google Assistant, Sonos' will be using Alexa and will likely be powered by Amazon's Fire TV platform rather than Android TV. Sonos is expected to announce its device at an event on 6 June.
Google says this is the first in a new series of hybrid devices, so it's likely to announce more partnerships at Google I/O. There's no pricing available for the JBL Link Bar, but it's expected to debut later this fall.