Will voice control disrupt living room electronics?

Will voice control disrupt living room electronics?

Summary: Is 'multi-variate and unstructured “search” is the answer to find the right content'?

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TOPICS: Telcos
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Voice command in the living room 'makes so much sense in home electronics and why it will dominate the living room,' claims Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy and former AMD VP.

According to Moorhead, because we have so many options when it comes to entertainment (hundreds of channels, and unlimited viewing thanks to services like Netflix), 'multi-variate and unstructured “search” is the answer to find the right content' and that natural language voice search and control is the answer.

Let's put the whole Apple TV rumor thing on one side for a moment (I still don't see why Apple needs to build a TV ... almost everything here could be done with a device connected to a TV) and concentrate on voice in a non-Siri context (it's too easy to speculate pointlessly as to what Apple will or won't do with Siri just yet) and ask some key questions:

Q: Would voice search/control work be beneficial in the living room?

A: Yes, but ...

Q: But what?

A: But it has to work, and it has to be close to flawless. 99% accuracy would be frustrating. It would need to be closer to 99.9% accurate. It would also need to be fast, as fast and searching an EPG (electronic program guide).

Q: Why?

A: Because as Moorhead points out, people will lose interest in in quickly if it's a pain to use.

Q: Where would voice search help?

A: It would allow for user-friendly search. One of the problems with most search mechanisms is that they rely on typed-in search terms. People don't want to be typing into their TVs in the living room.

Q: What about voice control?

A: I'm more dubious when it comes to voice control. 'Volume up,' 'volume down' and 'change channel' and so on just don't feel all that practical to me. Maybe this is where a gestural system like Microsoft's Kinect comes into play.

Q: Are technologies such as Siri up to the job?

A: No, I don't think so.

Q: Why hasn't anyone done this already?

A: Good question! Because the technology isn't ready.

I agree with Moorhead that voice search and control would certainly disrupt entertainment technology, especially if it works well. But I do have some serious reservations.

  • Control - One remote allows one person to be in control. How does voice or gestures change that dynamic?
  • Complexity - Does voice/gesture control reduce or add to the current level of complexity?
  • Legacy devices - Does having one device being voice controlled while everything else is driven by a remote actually help?
  • Backup - What's the backup mechanism for when voice/gestures fail? A remote control? Nothing?
  • Ecosystem - Will it be a walled garden (like iTunes) or will users be able to add and customize what's on offer?
  • Demand - Is there actual, real consumer demand for voice control or is this all in the minds of pundits and analysts?

[poll id="740"]

Topic: Telcos

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19 comments
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  • Once again, Microsoft leads

    Companies like Apple follow.
    toddybottom
    • RE: Will voice control disrupt living room electronics?

      @toddybottom And now you can cash your Microsoft stipend.
      ssaha
    • zOnce again toddybottom flames

      @toddybottom Doesn't matter the topic, this guy will get in there at the top to try too subvert the discussion into fanboi rants.
      Talk about useless, this guy is just a pain. Please ignore his posts.
      radleym
  • RE: Will voice control disrupt living room electronics?

    This is where I completely agree with the Grinch, "That's one thing I hate! All the noise, noise, noise, noise!"

    Competition between multiple voice activated/controlled devices WILL lead to some undesirable action.
    Bruce Lang
    • RE: Will voice control disrupt living room electronics?

      @Bruce Lang: Then ideally, they should not all be listening on their own. There should be one device/voice control server, and everything that takes commands get them from it. Then you can fix the issue with multiple devices responding to the same command.
      Natanael_L
  • RE: Will voice control disrupt living room electronics?

    Personally, I don't want it, but I might try it someday, only if the electronic will reply back in the voice of Majel Barrett. :)
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • Voice works fine ...

    ... on the Xbox 360, to navigate through large amounts of data, and bring back a relatively small set of information. You can then use gestures, the controller, a remote control, or even voice, to further narrow down your search or select your item of interest.

    As for other electronic devices, it would probably make sense that they implement a standard set of APIs, which would allow them to be controlled via software on tablets, smartphones, and consoles. Therefore a stereo could e.g. implement an API that allowed it to be controlled by an app on a tablet or smartphone, or through a console such as the Xbox. Electronic devices could therefore have rich, immersive, easier-to-use interfaces done via apps, and could be collectively controlled through the aforementioned devices - rather than each one being controlled through a local voice interface. (I believe Mary J. Foley referred to a MS research project many moons ago, that was looking at implementing much of this, via a home network.)
    P. Douglas
    • RE: Will voice control disrupt living room electronics?

      @P. Douglas has hit on what I think it the most critical issue, which hasn't gotten NEARLY enough attention yet: APIs or some framework for device-to-device control. If everything could be controlled easily by another device (for argument sake, say a tablet) then you could use whatever user interface you want to have that tablet control everything else - voice, gestures, you name it. If you ever tried to program a "universal remote" in a complex environment, you have an idea of the issue. In the IR world there weren't "standard" commands. Now we have a blend of IR, RF, bluetooth and LAN/WLAN controls, and we don't seem to be getting any closer. Oh, there was some limited RS232 serial control in the past (and still) and now there's some USB, just to keep things interesting, and of course there's a bit of UWB around as well.

      What we really desperately need is a "standard" framework that everyone can live with for device control and status reporting (yes, it really does need to be bidirectional communication) over at least LAN/WLAN and Bluetooth and probably Z-Wave and Zigbee. Of course once you're controlling things over a LAN or WLAN, you're no longer limited to the same room (or building, country or continent!), so security has to be rolled in as well, hopefully not as an afterthought - and hopefully better thought out security than WEP was...

      It's complicated, but I think it's a nut that HAS to be cracked before we can expect something better than a pile of proprietary remote controls in our living rooms (unless your whole setup is one single dumb TV hooked to one cable box or something). Now that I have a TV that can play Pandora, all of the lines are starting to blur and it's becoming apparent how limiting it is that it's virtually impossible to make things work without a person driving everything who understands each device's current state and capabilities.
      The Mickster
  • RE: Will voice control disrupt living room electronics?

    Voice control in it's current form is just a marketing/selling point, not something people can really use - except for some very limited scenarios. (Same for 3D TVs - there just isn't enough 3D content for making owning one much sense in the first place - except for showing off to friends & neighbours.)

    It's just not advanced enough yet. And nobody will ever bother controlling devices with voice anyway when you can reach the same end result by pressing a simple button on your remote. It only makes sense for very complex function sets - but then again, people hate complex devices and prefer simplicity instead.

    So it will not be actually useful for everyday household devices for a very long time - if ever at all...
    ff2
  • RE: Will voice control disrupt living room electronics?

    Not in my living room!
    Userama
  • No interest

    I know which number my favourite channels are on, the rest of the family don't care what they watch, as long as it isn't advets.

    Otherwise I'll stick in a DVD.

    TV just isn't important enough to warrant the outlay. It is just a distraction for when we don't have anything else to do. The same for the radio.
    wright_is
  • RE: Will voice control disrupt living room electronics?

    Until voice control works like Star Trek's computer.. it is not ready.
    This unit is the ultimate achievement in computer evolution.
    This unit must survive.

    And then, if the TV (or the computer) is listening to your everyword in hopes of receiving a command, who or what else is listening? What is the privacy policy? Does it even mean anything? apple/google/microsoft may decide that to serve you better, they will use your and your spouse's discussion of italian food as an oppty to target your TV's IP addr. with a pizza ad in cooperation with the network, during the next scheduled network commercial slot. The storage medium in the TV will likely be kept full of ads attuned to whatever is being discussed or done in front of the TV, so that one or two of those ads and offers can be delivered during the scheduled commercial slot. Touch the icon to buy. The age of individually targeted TV ads may come soon as bandwidth and information sharing combine to create the "zero latency enterprise" of tomorrow. Buy more. Buy more now. Buy. And be happy.
    opcom
  • RE: Will voice control disrupt living room electronics?

    I can imagine it in my house...<br>Kid1: "Dad! He's trying to turn the tv off" (click)<br>Kid2: "TURN THAT BACK ON!" (click)<br>Kid1: "But I want to watch a move!" (click)<br>Kid2: "HEY! I was watching that! Turn it back!"(click) <br>Me: "Stop fighting or I'll turn it off." (click)<br>Kids: "DAD!"<br>Me: "Sorry. Turn the tv on." (click)<br>Kid2: "Dad? Can I watch my movie?" (click)<br>Kid1: "Hey! Turn it back!" (click)<br>Me: "Everyone stop yelling and be quiet!" (click) <br>Kid3: "Hey! I can't hear it! Turn it up!" (click)<br>TV: "BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!" <br>Me: "That's it! I've had it! I don't care if it's only 6pm, everyone go to sleep!"(click)<br>Wife: "Honey? What did you do to my computer?"<br>Me: (sigh)
    simond@...
    • RE: Will voice control disrupt living room electronics?

      @simond@...

      +1 hehehe
      blaacksheep
    • RE: Will voice control disrupt living room electronics?

      @simond@... Also will the devices will be able to tell when you are commanding it what to do and not say a TV show or movie. Imagine you sit down to watch a TV show with your kids and the lovely people on the TV show are singing a song that teaches your kids about turning the lights on and off. As they sing the song about turning the lights on and off the voice activated lights in your room turn on and off to the song! Or if the devices are trained to just your voice and you watch an old family video. Every command you say on the old family video the devices around you react!
      NZJester
  • RE: Will voice control disrupt living room electronics?

    Before the patent attorneys get wound up, I hope they remember Star Trek had voice control waaay back...
    Bob63
  • RE: Will voice control disrupt living room electronics?

    I've got the xbox with kinect and the new voice controls leave me wanting more. It's works pretty good. Definitely not perfect but it's pretty cool when watching netflix to simply say 'xbox pause' and the movie pauses do your deed answer phone get a drink what ever then simply 'xbox play' and the movie resumes. Would love to control volume and channel this way as well.
    ricksterd6
  • RE: Will voice control disrupt living room electronics?

    Actually Windows XP and higher do have a basic voice control function built in, but not to many people use it as it requires a nice quiet environment to work well. The function was also available as an add-on package in Windows 95 & 98. So voice control has been available in Microsoft Windows computers since the 90s.
    NZJester
  • been there done that

    Attempt at using VR for home automation are years old. Many home controls systems and software have used varients of VR but no on eever really used them for many reasons. Speaker dependent VR is the best we have and nobody uses it for home control and its been mature for years. Siri is not an Apple product, it is the same VR engine Nuance has been selling otherwise. It is not a magical and revolutionary advance, just repackaged Nuance technology. I dont' see anyone using VR for tasks other than content searches (or for the physically disabled).
    rehabeng