Google TV Makes Voice Controls Look Useful

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Google has stepped into the future of television with its new voice recognition feature, a seemingly gimmicky addition, which Google manages to make look pretty useful. In the promotional video below Google shows us how we might use this voice control software and it looks like the kind of thing we would want out of our TV—if it actually works. 

  • Our Google TV user doesn't have to remember what channel a show is on: He can just speak the program into the remote and it shows up.
  • If he doesn't know the name of the program, describing the show to his remote, the television does its smart thing and helps him find his program.
  • After asking him to teach him something, the TV surfaces what looks like a how-to YouTube video. 

It's more than a speaky version of a remote control, it makes finding things easier—or so it seems.

A main consumer worry with voice recognition is functionality, found a recent survey. "There is distrust towards commanding your home environment with voice; the users doubt especially its functionality," write the authors. Siri, for example, lost favor with the masses for not knowing things. (The promotions for the bot, in a sly way, led us to believe otherwise, too.)

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At this point Google has us intrigued. It will win us over once widespread consumer use puts it to the test. For now talking to a TV remains one of those bells or whistles that television makers are fastening onto new sets but aren't being widely used, like 3D compatibility. (A Samsung spokesperson basically admitted that voice controls are mostly a marketing gimmick to Bloomberg Businessweek's Cliff Edwards.) It's still not clear it's a feature anyone really wants. A recent survey of iPhone 4S owners found that only 37 percent of people would welcome Siri onto their TVs and 20 percent said they didn't want the talking bot on their sets at all. But even with this reluctance on the consumer end, with voice controls making a notable appearance at this year's Consumer Electronic's Show, it's no surprise that Google has followed Samsung and Microsoft with its own version. The surprise is that Google makes it look like something we might want to use. 

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