×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

CES Trend: Your Next Smart Speaker May Be a TV

Alexa, turn on the television: If you’re out to buy a new TV this year, you’ll find barely any brand name device that won’t offer voice control, often powered by Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. And while the majority of these devices still require consumers to press a microphone button on their remote, you’ll also find some with far-field voice control on store shelves later this year, offering much of the same functionality as an Amazon Echo or Google Home smart speaker.

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, multiple companies announced new models that will include integrated microphones for smart speaker-like voice control. TCL revealed on Monday that it plans to ship select TCL Roku TV models with “an integrated high-performance far-field mic array,” as the company put it in its press release.

The company is working with Roku to integrate technologies to deal with ambient noise, and it will also integrate Roku’s nascent entertainment assistant. Other companies who have committed to far-field voice control include Funai Corporation, which plans to release such a TV under the Philips brand later this year, and Hisense, which showed off a model with voice control on the show floor as well.

“No more searching high and low for the remote or shouting far and wide to be heard,” the promotional signage next to the TV declared.

Popular on Variety

CREDIT: Janko Roettgers / Variety

Hisense touting far-field voice control for some of its upcoming TVs.

Even market leader Samsung is jumping on the far-field voice bandwagon, albeit with a twist. Instead of integrating microphones directly into the TV, like Hisense and others are doing, Samsung is using the included remote control for advanced voice functionality. Samsung voice remotes will still include a dedicated microphone button, but consumers will also be able to use the microphone button-free, and call out for the company’s Bixby smart assistant to help them change the channel, turn down the volume, or search for streaming content.

Samsung has yet to reveal some details on this far-field integration, but a company spokesperson said at a press event on Sunday night that the remote is likely going to pick up voice commands from up to 10 feet away. TV-based microphone integrations are likely going to be more powerful, and understand voice commands from across the room even while the TV is playing.

CREDIT: Janko Roettgers / Variety

Samsung’s remote controls will gain far-field voice capabilities this year.

This could lead to a backlash from consumers not comfortable with voice technology, but smart speakers have already broadened the acceptance of microphones in people’s homes. Emarketer recently estimated that 74.2 million people will use a smart speaker in the U.S. alone this year.

The growing acceptance of smart speakers also teaches TV makers something about the way consumers use these technologies. One lesson often repeated by industry insiders: Smart speakers are used very differently than voice remotes. Consumers who press a button on their remote often stick to short search queries. Exchanges with smart speakers are a lot more conversational and often broader, which can make it harder for smart TVs to suggest the right movie or TV show.

“The challenge is going to be discoverability,” said Gracenote vice president of product development Greg Gentschev. That’s one reason the Nielsen subsidiary has ben building out a new TV data product that describes movies and TV shows by mood, theme, and scenario. “We’ve got around 2,400 keywords in our hierarchy,” said Gracenote chief product officer Simon Adams.

Using descriptive tags like “greed” and “betrayal,” as well as “dark” and “gripping” for a show like “Game of Thrones,” Gracenote hopes to make both personalized content recommendations as well as voice search for smart TV platforms and video services a lot more effective. And while most of those keywords are still assigned by human editors, the company is looking to over time also increase the use of artificial intelligence to categorize a growing amount of available content.

It will likely be some time before consumers truly get to embrace voice-optimized experiences powered by far-field microphones on their TVs. Market research data suggests they’re ready for it. Data released by Adobe Analytics in December revealed that 63% of all smart speaker owners have such a device in their living room.

More Digital

  • Tana MongeauStreamy Awards, Arrivals, The Beverly

    Streamy Awards 2019: The Complete Winners List

    The 9th annual Streamy Awards – honoring the best from YouTube and online video – were held Friday night in Beverly Hills. Tana Mongeau was named Creator of the Year by fans while “Good Mythical Morning” won Show of the Year. David Dobrik picked up multiple Streamys, including Best Director and Ensemble Cast (“Vlog Squad”). [...]

  • NBC News - Quibi

    NBC News Digital Workers Form New Union

    A group of approximately 150 editorial workers who help produce some of NBC News digital content have formed a union, citing a desire to push their employer to work more seriously through such issues as equal pay and the recent handling of sensitive stories. Editorial employees of NBC News Digital won certification of their union [...]

  • Fox Nation Tests Holiday Programming

    Fox Nation Tests Holiday Programming

    The Fox Nation streaming-video service has long been touted as a new option for super-fans of the Fox News Channel. But some of the broadband hub’s new programming choices suggest adherents of “Fox & Friends” and Sean Hannity aren’t looking solely for chatter about politics and interviews with members of the Trump administration. Subscribers to [...]

  • Facebook

    FTC May Stop Facebook From Integrating Whatsapp, Instagram

    The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is weighing whether it should seek an injunction against Facebook to prevent the social media giant from integrating services like Whatsapp, Messenger and Instagram with its core app, according to reports from the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Regulators fear that Facebook’s app integration plans could make [...]

  • Ivanka Trump

    Ivanka Trump Reportedly Set to Speak at CES 2020

    Ivanka Trump, President Donald Trump’s daughter and an adviser to the president, is scheduled to appear on a panel at CES 2020 in January, according to a published report. Ivanka Trump will appear on a panel set for Jan. 8 at 3 p.m. at the Las Vegas confab with Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of [...]

  • Rooster Teeth - Joe Clary, Sean

    WarnerMedia's Rooster Teeth Names Co-Heads of Animation to Replace Gray Haddock

    Rooster Teeth’s Joe Clary and Sean Hinz are the new co-heads of its animation studio, replacing replace Gray Haddock, who recently left the company after he was moved out of his role as head of Rooster Teeth Animation earlier this year. The WarnerMedia-owned company, whose animated series include “gen:Lock,” “RWBY” and “Red vs. Blue,” promoted [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content