In recent weeks, a number of companies have announced or hinted at big changes to their television remote controls. For example, Apple is reportedly adding a touchscreen to its latest device, in the event that you don’t feel like using your Apple Watch, and Netflix and Amazon are making changes as while in preparation for the release of their latest entertainment systems. Now, Comcast is joining the fray: the company recently introduced new voice-controlled programmable remote controls. But will this change improve your television-watching experience or simply make fights for the remote a lot noisier?
With their new TV remote replacements, users of Comcast’s Xfinity cable TV system will be able to search for shows, channels, movies, TV recordings and on-demand programs using their voice. Customers simply have to press a blue button on the remote and say a command: “watch CNN,” for example. They can also set up a recording with their voice, search for movies using popular quotes and even ask “what’s trending?” to check out popular TV shows.
Comcast isn’t the first company to make this change: Amazon, for example, offers a voice search function to its Fire TV streaming device as well. Likewise, Roku, another company selling streaming devices, began offering voice search on its remotes this past April. The reason for this is clear: as selections expand, it can be difficult for users to search through all the different options with a traditional remote, creating a clear avenue for manufacturers to stand out from the crowd. With voice-activated TV remote replacements, manufacturers believe that the process will become considerably easier, and their services more attractive. For this reason, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect all remotes to feature this function in the coming months and years.
However, it isn’t difficult to imagine how voice-controlled remote control replacements could become inconvenient or irritating: while fights over the remote can already devolve into physical squabbles, this new feature will likely add more yelling to the mix. What’s more, it isn’t clear if background noise or other problems could make it difficult for the remote to pick the right challenge, or even if the remote can be used without the voice function in the event of sleeping family members or other situations. It seems consumers will simply have to wait for the device to be released to see if it is as good in practice as it is in theory.