Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Talking To My TV



After installing a Logitech Harmony hub and linking it to Alexa I’ve found myself talking to my TV.


It switches the TV on and off and starts up services like Roku (although it did start playing “We Will Rock You” by Queen the first time I tried...). It also pauses and restart the telly on DVR and OTT.


This means that we can use Alexa (or can just use our mobiles or iPads) instead of five remotes and around twelve apps. Magic!


(As an aside, I’ve recently installed BT Whole Home mesh, which is utterly brilliant. We have nearly forty connected devices already to in our house - five Sonos, three Nest, seven PCs and Macs, four connected TVs, three Roku boxes, six tablets, a Fire TV stick, a transcoder and the Harmony remote and hub. Oh, and two or three mobile phones and some security devices to protect all of the above! (Plus, of course, a microwave operating at the same frequency as our wifi). A single router just couldn’t cope - now all the devices are getting at least 60Mbs, even down at the dock at the end of the garden it’s 25Mbs. Yes, for the first time on this blog I’m praising BT!)


You can also control and manage the devices remotely from anywhere in the world using the Harmony on your mobile, since it’s cloud enabled (easier than explaining how they work to your mum when she comes to stay - and a great way of entertaining the cat).


The next step, I guess, is to give programme makers and service operators instant feedback from Alexa. Forget Gogglebox, welcome to Alexabox...


Seriously, it does open up many new possibilities - playing along to game shows by voicing an answer (Pointless will never be the same again, and as for University Challenge...), even ordering items from commercials or calling up a web page. Imagine skipping through channels or UIs and telling your TV to ‘save for later’.


It also highlights how useless current remotes and their endless buttons are.


Forget 8K and curved screens, what TV manufacturers need to do is to integrate voice commands into their devices. It’s probably too late for them to develop their own, so expect Alexa or Google on your next TV.


And yet again, Apple are left behind. Siri remain a joke. Ask it the time and your garage door will open. It has not once ever understood a voice command for dialling or directions I have given it.


Until Microsoft release some cheaper products, the company whose business focus under Ballmer was to ‘own your living room’ are much better focused on their business and cloud computing efforts. Their voice assistant, Cortana, is a side show, although still much better than Siri in my experience.


Now that we’re rigged up, I’m pretty convinced that voice commands are the way to go for TV viewing, but it remains to be seen how Alexa will respond to my expletive viewing of rugby games at weekends.