Comcast wants me to do something unnatural and it's getting annoying

Some tech companies will keep on nagging you for their own purposes and it's hard to make them stop. Especially if they treat you as if you're not very bright.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

Sometimes I feel alone.

When it comes to how I use my gadgets, that is.

I find a way they work for me and, despite the scorn of others, I persevere.

This isn't good enough for some tech companies. They want me to do things differently and they don't mind telling me where I'm going wrong.

Again and again and again.

The latest company whose standards I fail to meet is Comcast. Frankly, this has been going on for quite a while.

Feel free to snort, but I use my remote in the strange, old-fashioned manner: I push the buttons.

Yes, sometimes my chosen channel takes more than a moment to appear, but I'm familiar with the rhythms.

Comcast, though, is desperate for me to talk to my TV. Or, more accurately, to my TV box via my remote.

Why does it want me to do this? Does it want to keep on recording my voice for its intimate listening pleasure?

When I switch channels, a notification keeps appearing, one that reminds me it's possible to say the channel into my remote.

There's a drawback. I don't want to talk into my remote. I've never had the urge to talk into my remote. I do enjoy karaoke on occasion, but this doesn't mean I want to treat the remote as my little home microphone.

I have friends who have succumbed to this way of living. They do the Comcast Karaoke all the time. I watch them and wonder what it does for them.

"It's quicker," explained one friend. "I'm sure it is. It's easier too."

I worry, in fact, that I'm in a desperate minority of button-pushers. I worry that my friends are laughing at my Neanderthal ways.

But then I found hope. More precisely, I found a CNBC interview with Roku CEO Anthony Wood.

He said: "Many companies just don't really understand the attitude people have when watching TV. They want to sit there, drink their beer, and watch TV."

In my case, it's more likely to be a glass of wine, but have I finally found a tech CEO who understands me?

Wood explained that Roku isn't fond of wholesale vocal interactivity.

"I don't think people want to talk to their TV," he said. "In cases where it's faster and easier -- search, for example -- we make voice remotes."

He added: "We focus on integrating voice into areas where it can really make a difference, like entering your password or your e-mail address or searching -- those are things where it's tedious to tap stuff out on your remote. But other areas, like just scrolling up and down or the power button, it's actually easier to use the remote."

I know my chosen channel numbers. There really aren't that many. Of the hundreds of channels inside my Xfinity box, I likely only use around ten regularly.

Doesn't Comcast know this? Doesn't it hear my plaintive cries via my remote anyway?

Of course, I could turn off the notifications, but, interestingly, the default is to karaoke. It's also interesting that the notifications keep on coming, months -- or could it be years? -- since they began.

I confess I've constantly wondered just what lengths (or depths) the notifications might sink to. ("Talk to your TV, dammit, you doofus!") But no. It's always more or less the same wording.

I did a little research to discover just how prevalent talking to your remote might be. And then I lay down to watch Frasier reruns for seven hours.

Comcast, you see, entertains something in the region of a billion voice commands every month. Yes, all over America, people are talking to their remote in regular performance.

The company seems to believe it should educate customers on this behavior so that everyone does it.

Comcast does record what you say and, I understand, keeps the recording for up to 48 hours to train the remote to understand you better. Or should I say "better"? I also understand Comcast claims not to sell or share the data from your vocalizing.

I can't think of a way that tech companies will ever get me to talk to my gadgets as a normal form of behavior. Even when I ask my HomePod Siri to play something, I feel faintly silly.

But if Roku's Wood is right and people really don't want to talk to their TVs, what is truly going on? 

And what's this that has slipped out? There's a rumor that Comcast may be thinking about buying Roku.

Or could this just be something someone accidentally said into their remote?

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