Google has started to roll out the latest version of its Chrome OS operating system, which powers Chromebooks, with a nifty new feature for anyone heavily invested in smart home gadgets. After you’ve installed the update, you’ll be able to access a truckload of extra functionality from the lock screen of your device.
Your Chromebook will be able to cycle through images from your Google Photo library. It can either display a random pick-and-mix from the entire collection, or you can pick a specific album to shuffle on the lock screen. If you’d rather not have family memories displayed on your laptop, you can choose from a selection of default images from Google.
As well as your photos, the new lock screen will also display the current time, as well as local weather forecasts. There are also shortcuts to media controls, so you can pause or play a song. If that sounds at all familiar, it’s because this lock screen is almost identical to what you get with Google’s Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max gadgets.
These smart home gadgets include a touchscreen as well as handsfree access to the Google Assistant. When idle, these smart displays can shuffle through a selection of photos, offer quick access to media controls for any music playing on connected speakers around your home, and show the latest weather conditions outside. If you have a tablet-laptop hybrid, like the Chrome OS-powered Google Slate, propping up the gadget on a table with the new lock screen enabled – it will be also indistinguishable from the likes of a Google Nest Hub Max.
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If you want to test it out yourself, make sure Chrome OS 88 is installed on your device, then jump into the settings menu and locate the Personalisation section. Enable the new lock screen, and your Chromebook will automatically switch to this smart home-like mode when it detects that your laptop or tablet has been idle for some time.
And that’s not all. The new update also introduces a feature that lets Chromebook owners use a PIN or fingerprint to log into websites – instead of remembering their password. This should be much faster, Google has announced in a blog post about the latest update.
You’ll only be able to use the PIN to login to sites that support the WebAuthmn standard, but more services are adopting this option all the time. Dropbox and GitHub are some of the biggest names that support the hassle-free login right now.
Chrome OS 88 being pushed out right now. Google always staggers the roll out of these feature-packed updates, so don’t be surprised if it takes a few weeks to reach you.