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Say the word: How voice search benefits viewers and operators

Say the word: How voice search benefits viewers and operators

The weakness of TV remotes

Imagine a regular evening in the life of a big city dweller. Smart devices are all around them: the intelligent car they drive on their way home from work; the smart home system in their apartment; the virtual assistant ready to dim the lights; the crockpot preparing dinner and warming it up ready for their arrival; etc. Only the TV still requires effort, making them tediously navigate the on-screen keyboard with a remote to enter a movie name in the search bar.

 

Modern smart appliances have user-friendly control systems and execute commands in no time. In this light, the functionality of remote controls looks pretty limited. Anyone who’s tried using a remote to do something besides channel surfing probably felt disappointed.

Peripherals, such as a mouse, keyboard, or a smartphone hooked up to the TV can do only so much to simplify playback control.

 

Inconvenient searches costs operators their subscribers

Surveys show that most viewers end up turning off their TVs if they can't find the content they want. During one such survey, 85% of respondents said they had turned off the TV at least once for this reason. Of those respondents, 63% did this in over 20% of cases. In other words, every fifth search came to nothing.

Difficulties while entering search queries are among the top reasons viewers give up on watching TV. Over 70% of the respondents were unhappy with their TV providers' search implementation, and only a minor portion — less than 5% — put up with the inconvenience.

 

Say the word: How voice search benefits viewers and operators

Behaviors and attitudes of users towards their current pay-TV search features

 

In the viewers' opinion, the on-screen keyboard made interaction with the TV no easier. Moreover, they considered this input method complicated and impractical.

 

The addition of T9 made it a more viable option. However, the respondents noted that it was at its most practical when combined with system-wide autocomplete. T9 speeds up text entry, ensuring that the user doesn't have to mash the remote's buttons too often, plus it eliminates typos and misspellings.

The respondents recognized voice input as the easiest and the most viable way of interacting with a TV or set-top box.

Voice search gains particular importance for people with disabilities. Some users may find it challenging to enter search queries on the physical or on-screen keyboard. In this case, voice search becomes the only acceptable method of interaction with the TV.

 

Voice control – a radically different user experience

Without voice recognition, a TV remote's functionality is limited to switching channels, adjusting volume, seeking forward and backward, and changing TV settings. When it comes to typing, users are stuck with the on-screen keyboard. And it gets even worse with the lights off.

 

Voice control makes interaction with the TV fast and user-friendly. The user only needs to activate the remote control and say a command outside the TV's menu navigation. For instance, the user says: “Watch 2021 comedies,” and the TV will comply and offer a selection of available content sources. Additionally, voice search puts users mere seconds away from the content they want. 

 

How voice recognition works

A TV, let alone a remote control, hasn't enough computational power to process voice commands on its own. Thus, modern devices do voice recognition in the cloud.

Launched by a user, the voice control app digitizes their voice and sends it to remote servers. There, the voice data is converted into a text query for the search command. You can learn more about the algorithms converting voice into commands that computers can understand from the article “Your Wish Is My Command” in BROADVISION #9.

 

Say the word: How voice search benefits viewers and operators

Simplified diagram of voice command recognition

 

Internet connection is key to controlling a TV or set-top box with voice commands because it links the devices to the cloud infrastructure. All you need on the TV remote side is a microphone, an appropriate codec, and RF support.

 

Why the remote?

You might ask, what is the point of having a remote if the TV or set-top box is already connected to the Internet? Why not control the device by simply talking to it? Indeed, some manufacturers do make remotely controlled devices with built-in mics. However, this path has its problems:

 

Privacy breach. To react to voice commands without a remote, the TV should constantly listen for them and send all the captured voice data to the cloud. Besides potentially disclosing the user’s personal information, it puts an excessive load on the data network.

 

Problematic query recognition. The device will have difficulty identifying the commands directed at it amid the constant noise and background conversations. Any phrase may sound like a query to the system.

With a remote, it's up to the user to decide which commands to say and when. The user holds the remote and doesn't have to shout at it from several feet away. It helps with increasing the accuracy of voice recognition, too.

 

All you need to get started

To integrate voice control, an operator should consider and ensure two key factors:

 

Say the word: How voice search benefits viewers and operators

Infrastructure

Set-top boxes need to support voice recognition on the hardware level. Subscriber devices should have everything necessary for recording and communicating commands (microphones, codecs, Internet connection). The software capable of converting text into commands to execute is a must, too.

The MAG500A set-top box manufactured by Infomir is an excellent example of such a device. It has a modern remote supporting voice input and both wired and wireless Internet connectivity. The unit uses Android TV to ensure accurate conversion of the user’s speech into the commands for the device.

 

Say the word: How voice search benefits viewers and operators

Technology

Even the most advanced voice recognition algorithms have room for improvement. For example, command analysis is still problematic for users with speech disorders or a strong accent, even though the problem has been mostly offset as neural networks and cloud computing continue to develop.

It remains to be seen which wireless technology is best suited to transferring voice data from the remote without draining its battery. Frequent use of voice control calls for large bandwidths to transmit commands to the cloud and back. Devices supporting powerful codecs are necessary to tackle this problem. Data compression allows fast data transfers at lower speeds while enabling long battery life for the remote.

 

Does voice control pay off?

It takes new equipment, a cloud system for voice recognition and content suggestions, and a microphone-enabled Bluetooth remote for recording queries to integrate voice search. To get all of that, the operator will have to pay up. Therefore, one should make sure the innovation will make a difference and pay off before initiating such an upgrade.

 

Surveys show that viewers are interested in voice control for TVs. With the advent of smartphones, people are becoming accustomed to voice interfaces (VUI). Voice input is no longer a luxury but a means of navigation. According to the latest data, 60% of smartphone owners use the feature regularly, and they want to use it on other devices, including TVs. Pay-TV operators providing voice search functionality to their subscribers will stand out from the competition.

 

Numerous surveys corroborate this. According to IHS Markit, more than 20% of all users interacted with their TV or set-top box via voice commands in 2019. Another 30% of viewers didn't use voice but were interested in the technology.

The feature was more desirable among young people: 33% of viewers aged 25 to 34 used voice assistants while watching TV. With the young generation gaining purchasing power and getting their own smart devices, this percentage will only grow.

 

Say the word: How voice search benefits viewers and operators

Percentage of viewers interested in controlling the TV using voice commands

 

Availability of voice control often nudges users toward making a purchase. According to a Parks Associates survey, voice control was an essential feature for 43% of American households in the market for a new media player or smart TV.

During another survey focussing on user attitudes towards voice search and voice interfaces, respondents showed a favorable view of both technologies. According to 60% of them, the technologies significantly improved the TV’s search experience. Users also found voice commands helpful, saying the conversational interface took their watching experience to the next level.

 

Over 70% of the respondents said they would consider changing their provider if a competitor offered voice control. And more than 80% of respondents would value their provider more if it integrated voice control for their devices.

 

The survey participants considered the simplicity and speed of content search experience to be the key factors determining their screen time. Besides, the viewers noted that voice control improved user experience and encouraged new views.

 

There is another reason for the positive attitude of viewers toward voice search. The technology looks up content for them to enjoy by themselves and also in the company of their partners, families, and friends. This means content picking becomes a more social, interactive, efficient, and snappy experience.

 

Voice input is gaining momentum and has already penetrated the telecom industry. Viewers prefer IPTV/OTT operators that offer this technology because voice control provides a quick and user-friendly way of looking up content. Additionally, viewers can finally relax and forget about tediously entering text with the on-screen keyboard.

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