DirecTV voice search on TV

Satcaster to bow iPhone app that uses voice-recognition engine in Apple’s Siri

Listen to this: DirecTV is using the same technology that powers Apple’s Siri voice search to let subs find TV shows and movies they want to watch by speaking their desires.

Satcaster developed an enhanced version of its iPhone remote-control app with voice-recognition features. The app, slated for beta release this summer, understands natural language speech to respond to phrases like “What’s playing on HBO?” or “Find a Tom Cruise movie on this weekend.”

“It brings a brand-new user experience to the TV,” said Tony Goncalves, DirecTV’s senior veep of digital entertainment products. “It’s the next leap in navigation.”

DirecTV’s voice remote app works with a customer’s set-top, too, to provide speech search and commands directly on the TV. Users can tune to a live channel (by saying, for example, “Go to CNN”), instruct the DVR to record the program or play one on the DVR. If a title is available via DirecTV’s TV Everywhere agreements, users can opt to stream it on the iPhone.

“We believe this solves the problem of searching on your TV in an intrinsic way,” Goncalves said. DirecTV’s goal is to boost viewer engagement and perception of service’s overall value, and company also expects to see incremental lift in pay-per-view purchases. The app delivers personalized content recommendations, based on a customer’s viewing and search history.

The app, which DirecTV has been crafting for a little more than a year, uses the voice-recognition system licensed from Burlington, Mass.-based Nuance Communications. It’s the same code in the Apple Siri search feature, even including the same synthetic female voice familiar to iPhone fans.

DirecTV isn’t first with the concept: Other pay-TV providers have made forays into voice remote apps. Comcast has such a feature as part of its limited-release Xfinity X1 service, and AT&T offers a U-verse TV voice-recognition app designed for people with disabilities to more easily control their TV.

To date, DirecTV users have downloaded more than 10 million mobile remote-control apps for Apple iOS and Android devices.

The voice-enabled app required DirecTV customers to have a Genie DVR or any HR-24 model or later set-top or DVR. Box must be connected to local Wi-Fi network.

DirecTV integrated the Nuance voice engine with its own metadata, which includes TV listings provided by TMS.

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