Video: Can Google Make a TV That Will Listen When I Talk to It?

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A visit to YouTube's lab, where they are building the TV of the future

TV works great when it's TV. You turn it on, a moving picture displays something. You use a rudimentary device to tune into different programs. Repeat.

Internet video works great when it's Internet video. You go to YouTube, have some laughs, share with your friends, read some racist comments, ponder the state of discourse, watch another cat video, have some laughs. Repeat.

Netflix works great as Netflix. Movies! TV shows! Lots of them! Forever of them! You're sick. You're tired. You can watch 100 hours of entertainment for the cost of dinner at Denny's.

But when TV companies have tried to mix all these things into The Ultimate Smart Television Experience, it has not worked.

Hell, even when cable companies try to create on-demand video user interfaces, you feel like you're navigating through a project that a first-year UX student would savage at a crit.

When I complained about all these things, the good people of YouTube/Google invited me down to try the latest version of Google TV with an LG display. The way it works is Google builds the software and the TV companies incorporate it in various ways into the hardware.

Specifically, they wanted to show off voice control, which they said could allow me to talk to my TV .

So for my own sake, for your sake, I demo'd the smart TV set up that you see in this video. I liked it. It's not perfect yet, but we're getting close. And perhaps Google, among others, have finally discovered that they need to make Smart TV dumber.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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