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10 October 2017

The Google Assistant can help control your Android media apps

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Posted by Nazmul Idris, Android Devices and Media Developer Advocate

The Google Assistant is available across phones, speakers, Android TV and more. And it can help users get more done throughout their day—where they need to add something to a to-do list, turn on the lights, or play a song.

With music specifically, the Assistant has a lot to offer. It can understand media commands across devices ("play rock music") and supports media controls (like pause, skip, fast forward, thumbs up). And users can also control Android media playback through the Google Assistant. For example, you can pause playback by telling the Google Assistant to "pause playback" without lifting a finger. Or play music by saying "play rock on Universal Music Player".

In order for the user to control playback in your Android Media app via the Google Assistant, you can use the MediaSession APIs to make this happen. We recommend that you use MediaSession over intents as you craft your app's integration with the Google Assistant.

How to use MediaSession in your app?

Your app must implement a MediaSession that handles a prescribed set of actions as described in Interacting with the Google Assistant.

Here are some sample projects that can help you get started using MediaSession in your media apps:

  1. MediaBrowserService sample
  2. Universal Music Player sample
  3. Assistant Integration with Leanback sample

To learn more about MediaSession here are some good resources:

  1. Understanding MediaSession
  2. Working with a MediaSession
  3. Video Playback with the Google Assistant on Android TV

How does the Google Assistant use MediaSession?

The Google Assistant uses MediaSession in the same way as other external controllers such as Android Wear do. Each of these controllers cause state changes inside your app, and there needs to be a way to respond to these changes. This is where MediaSession comes into play.

By using MediaSession, the Google Assistant can control your app's media playback, as well as stay synced with its current state.

How do I test my app with MediaSession?

Once you implement MediaSession you will probably want to test how playback can be controlled outside of your app. The Media Controller Test tool was created to emulate external control of your media playback. You can verify that when other apps (like Google Assistant) interact with your app, that it works as expected.