Today, Google announced over on the Android Developers blog an updated Android emulator with improved hardware support for developers. The first new feature in the updated emulator is built-in GPU support for Android 4.0.4. The post explained:

With Android’s growing reliance on using the GPU to improve performance, the difference is significant. In this video, the emulator is still interpreting ARM instructions; the performance boost is the effect of putting the GPU to work… As a bonus, since we’re now supporting OpenGL ES 2.0, your OpenGL games can now run inside the emulator.

Another addition to the emulator is the ability to “use a tethered Android device to supply inputs for sensors and multi-touch input.” Also included in the update is enhanced CPU performance:

We’ve also improved the CPU performance of the Android emulator. Hardware floating point operation has been available for system images since Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0), allowing CPU operations to be emulated roughly twice as quickly. Last week’s r17 developer tools release included x86 system images and host drivers (available through the SDK Manager), allowing the emulator to access the host CPU natively and offer significantly faster execution.

The post noted support for other hardware features, including NFC and Bluetooth, is on the way.