To some, it looks like a object d'art from Spencer Gifts. To others, it recalls the Parker Brother's Orb puzzle from the 1980s, but either way Google's new Nexus Q social streaming device is something unique to behold. A heavy black sphere that's bisected by a light ring that changes color based on the pattern of the music it's playing, the Nexus Q costs $299 and has more than good looks going for it.
The tiny circular computer features a powerful dual-core TI OMAP processor and a full suite of ports for connecting to your home theater so it can play movies, music and YouTube videos from the cloud, while you sit there and control them with your Android tablet or phone. A group of users on the same Wi-Fi network can share control, adding their own songs to the master playlist or changing the play order.
Here at Google I/O, we had a few minutes to go hands-on with a Google Nexus 7 tablet that was controlling a shared playlist for a Nexus Q that was hooked up to a large screen TV and stereo. Though we experienced Wi-Fi connectivity issues when we tried to play back a movie from the Play store, we were impressed with the way the built-in music app allowed us to add, remove or reorder songs on the shared playlist. Music playback on the demo system was loud and clear and the way the screen showed a graphical representation of the music tone was particularly intriguing.
The real question about the Nexus Q is what else you might be able to do with it in the future. Right now, Google says it is just a social streaming device, but with its powerful processor and USB / microSD cards the company says are designed for expansion and hacking, we have to wonder whether it could be used for other purposes.
We'll be reviewing the Nexus Q in the near future, but until then, check out our hands-on video below to get a closer look at this interesting new device.