How Siri could be put to work in the living room

How Siri could be put to work in the living room

Summary: While the case for an Apple branded television is far from concrete, the living room is wide open for the Cupertino, Calif.-based giant to make an assault with a number of devices—and at the heart of these devices could be its voice assistant technology, Siri.


While I'm far from convinced that there's a demand for an Apple branded television set, I do believe that the iPhone and iPad maker is eyeing the living room. And, a key technology to help it make a play for this space is the Siri voice assistant technology.


Pundits and analysts have been confidently predicting for years that Apple will launch a television, but so far the company has shown no signs of making a play into one of the oldest and most cutthroat of consumer electronic markets.

Personally, I can't make a convincing case for Apple to make a television simply because what's wrong with the modern television is not the screen, or the box that houses the screen, the problem is down to what's displayed, and how we interact with the device. 

Rather than develop a television, I believe that Apple is far more likely to improve on the Apple TV set-top box—a device that can be hooked up to any display with a spare HDMI port—or maybe come out with a new device, such as a widely-rumored games console.

Whatever Apple comes up with—if it comes up with anything—these devices will no doubt be equipped with a technology that's already in the hands of millions of iPhone and iPad users: Siri.

While Siri has a long way to go before it is perfect—Apple claims that the technology is still in beta testing phase—having used it on both the iPhone and iPad I'm convinced that it has potential to change the way that we interact with devices. When it works, it is a natural, easy, and mostly hands-free way to interact with the iPhone or iPad. It brings to life the sci-fi dream of being able to talk to computer as opposed to bash away mindlessly at buttons.

Like it or loathe it, Siri makes technology more human, and this in turn makes technology friendlier and more immersive. 

While the television remains the undisputed focal point of the living room, the humble remote control is where the real seat of power. Control the remote, and you control the TV. While remote controls have come a long way from the bulky, wired contraptions of mid-'50s, the concept of pressing a button to achieve a desired action hasn't changed much in that time. 

While televisions have become larger and thinner, flatter and ultimately better, the remote control has remained mostly unchanged.

Televisions have become larger, thinner, flatter, and better, but the tool we use to interact with it—essentially the physical user interface—has hardly changed in over six decades.

This is where Siri comes in. Button presses are replaced with natural language. Sure, there will be times where Siri isn't going to be convenient—such as for raising and lowering the volume—but in these cases the user could switch to alternative means of control, one of which we will come to shortly.

Siri relies on voice control, but I don't think that shouting at a device on the other side of a living room or bedroom is going to feel natural.

There are two ways that Siri could be leveraged.

The first is that existing iOS devices such as the iPhone and iPad could be used as remote control devices for the television, set-top box or games console. These devices have high quality microphones and could act as smart remote controls for any new devices Apple comes out with.

(Credit: MyVoucherCodes)

There's already an app that turns iPhones and iPads into remote controls for the Apple TV set-top box, and it is far superior to the bundled infrared remote control. iOS-powered devices are already becoming accessories for other devices in the Apple ecosystem. And why shouldn't they? Will several hundred million iOS devices sold to date—including the Apple TV set-top box, which runs a modified version of the mobile operating system sans Apple App Store—they're ubiquitous enough to take on this role.

Another option is that Apple could bundle a remote control that incorporated a microphone with whatever device the company releases. This could offer both traditional controls and Siri-based voice control through the use of a touchscreen display. If money is no object, then the remote could be designed to support specific apps.

(Credit: MyVoucherCodes)

Apple could also augment Siri with other technologies, such as gestures. These gestures could be used to control features such as changing channel, or raising and lowering the volume. Waving your hands at a TV might seem unnatural, but the success of Microsoft's Kinect motion controller has proven otherwise.

Job postings suggest that Apple continues to invest in making Siri work better, and it makes sense that this technology won't forever be confined to iOS-based devices. The future is not just about the technology we use, but how we interact with this technology.

Searching for those cat videos will never be the same again.

(Credit: MyVoucherCodes)

Thanks to Nickolay Lamm of MyVoucherCodes for the images, and to Yelena Lamm bringing the concepts to life.

Topic: Apple

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  • Siri is a Joke, Apple cannot innovate.

    Siri is a bloody joke. AAPL is a joke. tens of thousands of engineers and they cant even do a bloody map program, they cant even do anything to innovate, they need to sue Android people who started in 2005, two years before they did, they need to charge hundreds for a few pennies worth of flash and ram. They are a low life company with inferior technology riding on brand.
    • Very thoughtful...

      ... and necessary comment. It ads a lot to the discussion. Thanks. Oh. Enlightened. One.
    • You're so cool

      Is that what you wanted to read?
      Michael Alan Goff
    • Trol!!

      Wow another troll whose comments have nothing to do with the article. Keep on trolling!
  • I don't see a bright future for apple.

    I belive google is going to beat apple on this sort of thing. Google is in such a great position to move forward into the future. We are moving away from the importance of the physical device and OS as its becomming about data and minimizing the friction to interacting with the data. We will have glasses or perhaps go straight to direct brain interfaces, but I suspect that's still a ways off.

    Apple is stuck just looking for the next big 'reimagined' gizmo to keep them going and its possible there is nothing that will suit them. I think the iTV is not it because as you say, its not about just a better physical design. They cannot easily control the content and hence cannot make the ideal user interface they might imagine. You still need that cable box or you just can't get all the channels. Anything they do that falls short starts to eat away at the companies' value because they are propped up completely by just two similar products - the iphone and ipad and the loss of their visionary leader.
  • think about how you use the remote

    Next time you sit and watch tv, think about how you are using the remote. many people endlessly flip channels, or go to a guide, scroll for awhile, then put the remote down. In both cases a set of hard buttons are much more intuitive than voice commands. Maybe if the commands parsed through the available programming... But not up,up,up,etc. Never.
    Those remote control "apps" might offer to replace the remote but are they simpler? Slide (unlock), passcode, switch apps, flick to device menu, tap channel up (that's at least 9 taps)
    I also think people who are "Wowwwed!" by Siri have never really seen or had a use for voice control like has been available for years on the PC - and are usually english speaking males since most others have less than stellar experiences with VR.

    If you have a physical disability, then VR has a place for home control, but otherwise it has very little WAF (wife acceptance factor - - VR is really poor with female voice generally)
  • I don't want to talk to my TV.

    I use the Remote Control app for my Apple TV and the 7-button remote (with EyeTV s/w) for my external TV tuner/DVR. That's good enough. Agree that a whole Apple TV set doesn't make much sense, but an pumped-up Apple TV box does.
  • too much effort

    I have both the Kinnect and the wii, and after the novelty wore off those using the controller is just easier and funner, there seems to be so many external influences that make those controls less than optimal. Siri will be the same... I just want to crash on the couch and watch tv, not have to make the effort to speak clear legible english to my remote.