Nobody Wants to Talk to Their TV

Apple's big TV plans maybe might include Siri integration, but a recent survey suggests that bot-controlled television is not something people would want or use.

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Apple's big TV plans maybe might include Siri integration, but a recent survey suggests that bot-controlled television is not something people would want or use. "Only 37% of 4S owners said they definitely wanted voice-commands on their television set, while 20% said they did not want them there," writes The Wall Street Journal's Jessica Vascellaro, citing a survey done by the consulting group Parks Associates. Asking 482 iPhone 4S users how they employ their bots, the survey found that humanity hasn't embraced that kind of robot-enabled future yet.

What do people use Siri for? Pretty standard phone-ish things, so far. A third of those surveyed use the iAssistant to make phone calls and send text messages, making those the most popular activities. But other than that, Siri doesn't get much play. Over a third of those surveyed never used the voice-activiation to play music or schedule meetings.

Siri users aren't that adventurous with their phones, which might explain the lack of enthusiasm for Siri-TV. There's something about talking to a phone that feels dumb even though users have had about six months to get used to the bot.  It no longer feels weird to ask Siri to type out a text or make a call. But, taking it to that next activity control level, however, still feels strange since you're still having a conversation with an inanimate object. It reminds us of this favorite anecdote from a New York Times commenter, discussing the absurdity of Siri phone etiquette. "On the morning of Thanksgiving, I saw a lone Williamsburg hipster on a deserted street telling his phone, with increasing insistence and volume, 'I'm hungry,'" wrote Josh K.

Plus, Siri's not reliable enough for us to put our entire television watching experience in her hands. "Some 55% of 4S users said they were satisfied with Siri, 9% were unsatisfied, and the rest were somewhere in between," writes WSJ's Vascellaro. That's not quite the hype the bot once had when the iPhone 4S came out. This might have to do with the various glitches Siri has had since its debut, including a mass outage in November, its inability to understand accents and the general inability to understand commands because of noise or mumbling. That noise part especially has TV-watchers nervous. "When watching TV there is so much background noise," John Barrett, director of consumer analytics at Parks Associates told Vascellaro. Reliability is an important function for TV remote controls -- we get that horrible stomach-sinking feeling when the batteries die, for example. Imagine if Siri just stopped responding during a TV watching session. Suddenly, going back to channel surfing on a remote would feel as archaic and annoying as walking up to the TV and switching the dial.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.