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Television Media Hardware Technology Entertainment

A Voice-Controlled TV Remote 185

Pankaj Arora writes "California-based Agile TV aims to 'change the way people watch TV' via the creation of its voice-controlled TV remote, Promptu. From the article: 'The Promptu remote is designed to replace a conventional remote control and includes a "Talk" button and a built-in microphone, together with an infra-red receiver used in conjunction with an existing cable box.' Personally, I'm waiting for the version that interfaces with your brain."
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A Voice-Controlled TV Remote

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  • Mirror (Score:2, Informative)

    by pressesc ( 873084 )
    That didn't take long to get ./ed did it now? Here's a Mirror []
  • by bonch ( 38532 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @06:16PM (#12128808)
    Of course, the best feature of a voice-controlled remote would be to yell out, "Where the hell are you?" and have it respond, "Over here!"
    • Re:Best feature (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Infinityis ( 807294 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @06:26PM (#12128863) Homepage
      Which, of course, becomes useless if you apply it to a number of devices. Might work better if it responds to "Where are you, remote control?"
      • Better yet (Score:5, Insightful)

        by bonch ( 38532 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @06:44PM (#12128960)
        Let's make the remote control pointless and have the TV itself be voice-activated.
        • A remote is needed for several reasons. One if your spouse or children disagrees with your selection than the one with the remote get the choice. Two I would think that it has to mute the tv while giving the command. Three the microphone would have to be near the speaker to drown out all of the other noises in the house(refigerator, furnance, other people talking).
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Don't try to anthropomorphize objects, they hate it when you do this!
    • by Anonymous Coward
      "You're sitting on me you dolt!"
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I just want the voice actived remote to skip to the next channel when I say 'crap', 'damn crap', 'bs', 'junk', 'trash', or 'reality tv crap'

    • Of course, the best feature of a voice-controlled remote would be to yell out, "Where the hell are you?" and have it respond, "Over here!"

      Nah, voice controlled remote just means you're more likely to lose your voice.

      (Roommate was all excited about using his PDA as a remote control and, just as I predicted, he lost it immediately after installing remote control software).

    • Me: "Where the hell are you?"

      Remote: **muffling sound as it trys to answer**

      Me: "Ahh ha! You must be wedge between the sofa cushions again."

  • voice control (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Richard Allen ( 213475 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @06:16PM (#12128811)
    I've noticed that voice commands seem to take more energy than pushing buttons. Why present it like it's an advancement?
    • by imsabbel ( 611519 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @06:18PM (#12128824)
      I agree.
      Voice recoginition is fine if the result is supposed to be a text, but commands?

      Its like in star trek. Think about how many battles would have been won if they had a big red "fire phaser" and a green "modulate shield frequency" button an the captains chair (instead of wasting time speaking it out everytime) :)
      • by flyingsquid ( 813711 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @07:06PM (#12129086)
        Its like in star trek. Think about how many battles would have been won if they had a big red "fire phaser" and a green "modulate shield frequency" button an the captains chair (instead of wasting time speaking it out everytime) :)

        Seat belts. How come they never had seat belts, even though they were always flying out of their chairs?

        If I were going to battle the Enterprise, I'd get a starship with a bigass bumper, heavily padded chairs, airbags, and of course, lots and lots of seat belts. Just ram them at high speed... and then send in a boarding party with spatulas to clean up the mess.

      • "Its like in star trek. Think about how many battles would have been won if they had a big red "fire phaser" and a green "modulate shield frequency" button an the captains chair (instead of wasting time speaking it out everytime) :)"

        Erm. You do realize that Patrick Stewart barks those orders to the AUDIENCE knows what's going on, right?
      • But picture this:

        Your in a darkened room, perhaps its 30 floors below sea level, perhaps its your parents basement, you sit down on your most comfortable chair that even contains a keyboard split into both arm rests. You look up at your large screen TV with a beasty sound system. You quietly clear your throat and bark one order.


        Your TV comes to life and begins a Star Trek marathon. Its perfect I tell you... almost too perfect.
    • Re:voice control (Score:4, Insightful)

      by KiloByte ( 825081 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @06:27PM (#12128870)
      I played with IBM's ViaVoice several years ago. It's next to useless.

      For regular text, the results don't even resemble whatever was said. Getting a single sentence right is a major feat, even after a number of repetitions. And this was not just me, none of my friends was able to make the damn thing work.

      For simple commands, it often worked. There were frequent mistakes, but generally, it looked like it might be an idea worth pursuing.

      However, every time you try talking to your computer, everyone in your vicinity looks at you weird way. Sure, getting accustomed to such gizmos would shake off this reaction pretty fast, but even then, it wouldn't be treated any gentler than it's the case for a cell phone going off in a bus. Talking to a machine makes you stand out.
      • This is different from Dictation; this is what is commonly known as a Commmand and Control grammar, where the designer writes given permutations of command sequences, rather than relying on picking out keywords. For example, instead of trying to parse 70,000 words and names, I instead write a simple grammar that is something like:

        $rslt = (show movie | find [actor $actors, movie $movies, $themes] | scan $themes);
        where the $variables are other grammar rules. This syntax is butchered, by the way, but you can
      • Re:voice control (Score:2, Interesting)

        by rustbear ( 852420 )

        It is stupid to compare this to a desktop ViaVoice. Because ViaVoice desktop edition has a vocabulary of 200,000 words, it requires training and results are not always accurate. However a device such as this voice remote control has a very limited vocabulary. Simply put, it has a smaller subset of words to choose from, so accuracy goes up. The limited-vocab systems can be very robust, as long as the software interface itself is well written, and the grammars are constructed correctly.

        These types of syst

        • Yes, the accuracy goes up. It does go up by a factor of many orders of magnitude, all the way from "bad joke" to "flaky but sometimes working".

          I'm afraid that those booking systems are not up to the task yet, and they won't be fully usable without additional several years of research. For a limited set of commands, that is -- dictation is pretty much an AI-complete problem, IMHO, as even a human who doesn't have an idea about the subject you're dictating a text about will have a bad error rate.
    • Re:voice control (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MBCook ( 132727 ) <> on Sunday April 03, 2005 @06:28PM (#12128874) Homepage
      I can see that to a degree. "Volume up, volume up, volume up" or "next, next, next, next". But if the TV was smarter (or it integrated with your TiVo or something) then it could be very hany. If you use a TiVo, then you basically never use the channel up/down buttons (I don't). So the commands could be more like:
      • Play Friday's Law & Order
      • Play the oldest Cheers episode
      • Add a wishlist for "Stargate"
      • Record PBS at 5pm on Wendsday
      • Show me the to-do list
      • or... Play all episodes on the TiVo of shows directed by people who's last names start with the letter "R" that were NOT aired in the 80s in alphebetical order of guest stars' characters' first names. (OK, useless, but can you imagine how hard it would be to enter that in a UI with just a remote?).

      Give the box some intelligence and it could be useful. But one word for each remote button on a standard TV would be painful.

    • Re:voice control (Score:2, Insightful)

      by kfg ( 145172 )
      For the makers that is easy to answer, because they wish to sell it. They don't give a damn about whether it's an advancement or not. They care about transfering your money from your pocket to theirs. For some reason companies think we're going to go all ga-ga over voice control. We never do. We never will. It sucks. It will continue to suck. Mostly because it means you have to talk just to do some simple, quiet little thing. It doesn't matter how well it understands you and responds, it's the sheer act of
      • Agreed. Mobile phones are horrible for this. Why should I waste the time assigning a voice command for my inbox then using the 'hold voice key, wait, speak, wait, do something' approach when I can go Menu-1-1-2?
    • It's definately an advancement over the remote(actually 2) that I used in the early eighties.

      I had a small TV at the foot of my bed, it was one of the old kind with knobs. I cut a notch into the end of a broom stick that I used to Turn(there's a word that stuck) the channel. Later added a clapper for power.

    • The pointless thing is, you have to push a button to get the thing to respond to voice commands...
    • "I've noticed that voice commands seem to take more energy than pushing buttons. Why present it like it's an advancement?"

      It depends on how it's configured, really.
      I have like 120 channels. I'd love to just be able to say "Switch to Cartoon Network" instead of surfing the guide to find what channel it's on. Heck, tie it into my replay, let me just say the name of the show I want to watch.

      Voice control would save me time then, but I doubt this product does that.
    • Maybe it's for those who prefer watching their TV "hands free". I'm thinking channel 593 on DirecTV...
  • Email Powered? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sammykrupa ( 828537 ) <> on Sunday April 03, 2005 @06:17PM (#12128815) Homepage Journal
    How about a TV where you email it directions? Examples:

    1. Tape all "Charmed" episodes

    2. Turn OFF

    Think of the possibilities! You won't even need to be in the same country!
    • We have something like that allready. its called the internet. here are the steps. 1. think of a show. 2. go to a bittorent site and download it. 3. Watch.

      Next request? :P

      Guess it would be to learn HTML eh?

      Yo Grark
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Yeah, but that would suck if someone, somehow, exploited it and sent something like "Record ALL Spongebob episodes" to your remote and you're a single man with no kids.

      Then someone comes over and see all the recordings of Spongebob on your DVR, and they're like "WTF man!?" and you're like "it wasn't me, I'm dead serious" and they're all like "yeah ok, loser" and they go on to tell everyone and your known as the 23 year old who watches Spongebob Squarepants and every time you go outside someone points and l
    • You must be new here, you forgot

      3. ???
      4. Profit!
    • You can save even more valuable time by adding

      1.1. Watch all "Charmed" episodes
      1.2. Delete all "Charmed" episodes

      After all, by far the most time consuming part of the whole process is actually sitting down and watching the shows you've recorded.. so why not get the device to do that part for you too? Leaving you with lots of extra time, able to get on with your life happy in the knowledge you'll never miss an episode of your favourite show.
    • My Replay does that. Sort of. I go to Replay's site, log-in, and pick what I want recorded. The Replay picks it up on the next cycle. (Sadly, that's a downside if you want to record something urgently. But it's better than not having it at all.)
  • Firstly, there's nothing on the television.

    Secondly, there's people who yell at their tv during normal watching voice control will just add to the aggravation. .. "NO YOU MORON THE ANSWER IS DAMMIT! dammit STUPID TV!!!

    Then, there's the issue of 'owning' the remote. All your Girlfriend has to do (you guys have girlfriends right?) is just say "Put it on the Women's Channel"

  • Worthless... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @06:17PM (#12128818) Homepage Journal
    Excuse my cynicism, but if I have to push a button in the first place, why shouldn't I just press the appropriate button to perform the desired command?

    Dan East
    • by Anonymous Coward
      But imagine the success you'll have during lunch break at your workplace: " I was watching some TV and someone in the show yelled TURN OFF, and it made my voice-controlled TV remote turn off my TV! Isn't that hilarious?!"

    • Dan East wrote: Excuse my cynicism, but if I have to push a button in the first place, why shouldn't I just press the appropriate button to perform the desired command?
      So that you are programmed to be the only recognizable voice and thereby solidifying your dominance over the remote in all situations.
      This probably would be easier for my parents who can't seem to get the hang of even just 5 button remotes. Press a single button and say "Next", "Louder", or "Power" would be about all t
    • "Excuse my cynicism, but if I have to push a button in the first place, why shouldn't I just press the appropriate button to perform the desired command?"

      I haven't RTFA but if you could record Macros, it'd be kinda cool. "Switch to Fox"

      I know it's useful on my phone. My phonebook has quite a few numbers in it, so tying the more important ones to a voice command has made that significantly easier.
  • No more lifting the remote to change the channel. So now the only exercise people will get is lifting the Bawls can?
  • ... step forward in the lazy, couch potato american stereotype
  • by sparkhead ( 589134 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @06:18PM (#12128823)
    We had these when I was a kid.

    They were called "children".
    • Yes, but this has the added feature of not being able to reply, "But I did it last time! Make Johhny get up and do it."
      • Yes, but this has the added feature of not being able to reply, "But I did it last time! Make Johhny get up and do it."

        When I was a kid, we also had something called "spanking". When I was sent to get the groceries (or, well, turn the TV on when we had the old B&W TV set on vacation trips), I wouldn't have *dared* answer back to my parents in any way but respectfully, and even so, after having carefully weighted the pros and cons of opening my piehole versus keeping quiet and do it. These days kids ca
        • Re:Old Technology (Score:3, Insightful)

          by RichardX ( 457979 )
          When I was a kid, we also had something called "spanking".

          It's still around these days, just a bit harder to find.. and kinda pricey.
          Usually costs me about $10 to $20 a time, depending on quality, avaliability, etc..
    • We had these when I was a kid.

      They were called "children".
      Yeah, but back then there were only three channels or so to choose from, so "the other channel" was a useful command.

      Besides, kids nowadays woudn't know how to manually change channels on a TV. They're all used to remotes by now.
    • You really *don't* want one of these things if you do have kids
      • Channel 7!
      • Channel 4!
      • Channel 7!
      • Channel 4!
      • Channel 7!
      • Mommeeeeee!! Bobby keeps yelling at the TV so I can't watch my program that's on Channel 4!
      • Channel 7!
      • /whacks brother
      • Kids! Shut up in there!
  • I remember a similar device being pitched during the early 90's. They would air their commercial and my grandmother (god rest her soul) would always ask for one. We never got her one, after some research it turned out to be more complicated than the regular remote.
  • less junk on TV == less channel switching == no need for fancy remote controls

    My C$0.02...
    • less junk on TV == less channel switching == no need for fancy remote controls

      This works too:
      more junk on TV == less channel switching == no need for fancy remote controls

  • by suitepotato ( 863945 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @06:20PM (#12128833)
    ...which would be well known to anyone in the custom high-end AV biz. It's also probably a bad idea as sooner or later an argument in the family room erupts over which channel to watch and the system has a nervous breakdown as it hears "Nickolodeon!" "MTV!" "Golf!" and so on until you go back to the good old fashioned button remote.
  • same thing with voice-command dialing with cell phones. i can imagine that being useful for blind people, but do blind people watch much tv? (well, maybe, i dunno) does anybody actually use voice-commands in any technology? (ignoring actual verbal communication with other living beings)
  • You say 'find a dull actor' and you see XXX next. Does it require voice training? I would be worried about word transcription errors, especially if your kid uses it and ends up with spiceTV. I know that limited vocabulary speech recognition has gotten pretty good, but there are too many names of TV shows and channels and actors to limit the vocabulary enough to make this accurate. Good luck to these guys, they'll need it.
  • It's just like installing clapper (The thing that turns off your lights when you clap) in a big auditorium. Just watch and see how good the effect will be!
  • by Infinityis ( 807294 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @06:24PM (#12128852) Homepage
    It comes with a handy reference card that helpfully explains "You can also find an actor in an Adult program by saying 'Find Adult Actor' and the actor's name".

    Aha! The true purpose is revealed! Naturally, one's hands will be occupied when searching for adult actors...
  • instead of physical fighting matches for the remote between people there will be yelling only?
  • by qyiet ( 851101 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @06:26PM (#12128865)
    Personally, I'm waiting for the version that interfaces with your brain.

    What, so it changes to the playboy channel every 3 min?
  • ... the programs will be generated in real time; if you get bored, the brain interface will create an explosion or have someone shot ...
  • This is... (Score:4, Funny)

    by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @06:29PM (#12128879) Homepage Journal
    Personally, I'm waiting for the version that interfaces with your brain.
    Assuming you have one left, after all that TV...
  • I'm cool with it, as long as the following exchange works:

    Me: Computer

    Remote: (beeps)

    me: Replay video, time index minus five seconds

    TV: Lay in a persuit course. Engage.
  • You can do this from a PocketPC with a Mic and infrared already: []

    It's not as cool as you'd think though... pressing buttons is actually easier than saying "One-One" or "Up Up Up" to change channels... plus you feel like a weirdo alone in a room talking to yourself...

  • In Soviet Russia (Score:2, Insightful)

    by yahyamf ( 751776 )
    the television programs voice command YOU oh wait... actually that's true in Democratic USA too
  • by rocjoe71 ( 545053 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @06:31PM (#12128892) Homepage
    My voice-activated remote control is broken. I keep asking for cooking shows about "prawns" and I get something wayyyy different.
  • so how much would a replacement remote cost? I'm thinking it would be quite a bit, and since you can't buy them in stores (at least not now) you would have to wait for one to be sent to you. The real question, I think, is will talking into my remote not only make me appear crazier than people already think I am, but also impair my ability to drink soda/booze and eat?
  • chanel surfing must be a pain in the ass to do with speaking, also wouldnt the tv mess up the command sometimes, due to background noise(the tv)?
  • by qyiet ( 851101 )
    If these become common does this mean we will get adds that loudly, and repeatedly say the name of another channel to get these devices to switch to it?
  • by the-build-chicken ( 644253 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @06:43PM (#12128954) watch a show about the english channel and the increase in the volume of ships using it.
  • Great, a new device to help people be even lazier. Is it really so hard to push a few fucking buttons?

    What's next -- people will be too lazy to talk, so they'll want something that lets them blink Morse code? Come on, using a normal remote control is not hard.

    (Disclaimer: Aside from news, Simpsons, and Jon Stewart, I watch no TV. Maybe for hard-core teevee usars, pushing buttons does get tiring. But just remember that you're better off than when people had to actually stand up and walk to the TV to chan

  • Want a TV remote that intefaces with your brain? Here ya go. []

    Don't know whether or not you're willing to undergo the surgery though.

  • Firstly, opening your mouth and speaking up takes up more energy than pressing a button wih your thumb. Value for laziness == 0. I can see a big value for disabled people though.

    Secondly, what's really needed is a TV that can recognize commercials and informercials and switch channel instantly (or switch to some radio station for the duration of the commercials), then comes back to the program when the junk is over. Cuz ya know, besides setting the volume, that's what people use their remote for when they
  • And now we have truly accomodated the american stereotype. Now Joe Sixpack doesn't even have to lift a finger. There goes my excuse for exercise. damn
  • TV makes sound, meaning dangerous feedback.

    I wouldn't want my remote doing crazy things on its own.

    How about a Promptu commercial on TV just after you pressed talk :)

    Plus, pressing a button and talking cannot faster than pressing two or tree buttons.

  • why not just bypass the remote and put the voice sensors in the TV? cut out the middle man and all that? Its as useless as those small remote controls on the headphone wire for an mp3 player. I mean think about it.Seriously.
  • If you mix up the commands with previous article [], you might end up with a dancing TV.
  • There are lots of them out there. My brother bought me one from the Discovery Channel store 4 years ago for Christmas. (Can't find a link to it right now, can't remember the manufacturer.)

    This Promtpu one has some nifty features like the "Find..." thing, but I can honestly say that the one I have is a PITA to use. More trouble than it's worth, especially considering my wife would have to train it to respond to her voice as well, and she doesn't have the patience for that.
  • Coming soon... Impromptu by Apple

    The remote control that makes you watch what it wants to watch!

    What, don't you "Enjoy uncertainty" []?
  • Sounds like a real hassle for channel surfers:

    "Down... down... down... down... down... down... down.."

    And isn't there a danger of the TV controlling itself?

    "Okay, Marsha, I'll tell you my horrible, horrible secret. Now listen UP"
  • by Anonymous Coward
    On my wish list would be the ability to change available channels by time of day. Some channels offer nothing bout infomercials during certain hours. With smart channel surfing, your TV would skip these channels. Also it could help you avoid accidently stumbling onto Larry King or the Teletubbies.
  • by t_allardyce ( 48447 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @07:13PM (#12129140) Journal
    All I want to know, is which retard invented a voice-controlled remote but put a button on it that you have to press before you can actually talk? What would have been useful is a remote control that would make a beep when you called it after you had lost it down the sofa. They could have put all these search features on a device with a screen or just taken any PDA with an infra red port and written some software.

    Verdict: no one is using it now and no-one will be using it in 6 months time..
  • the old remote controls from the '70s? They had two buttons that made a loud clicking noises. With just a little practice, one could made similar mouth generated sounds that would make the TV either turn on/off or change channels. We've gone full circle!
  • watch TV for you. Then you can go and spend that time doing something interesting with your life.
  • Personally, I'm waiting for the version that interfaces with your brain []
  • Personally, I'm waiting for the version that interfaces with your brain.

    Barclay> "...Tie both consoles into the Enterprise main computer core utilizing neural scan interface."
    Enterprise computer >"There is no such device on file."
    Barclay> "No problem--here's how you BUILD it..."

  • What happens when a show has a a character giving commands to his TV? I don't know about most shows, but the Simpsons would definitely have fun with it.
  • I have the InVoca voice activated remote [] 059S86/104-2019136-6738345?v=glance [] ( I got mine for $30 new) It can control the TV, cable, tivo, dvd, etc. I don't think that it "changed the way I watch tv" ... It's pretty much a pain if you listen to the TV loud, because it messes up the commends. The nice thing was that it was totally hands free. You didn't have to press any buttons (but could if you wanted to) .. it listened for control words. I could
  • or something like it. I find that I locate frequently used buttons on the remote by feel. The reason is that I typically watch TV in a mostly darkened room.

    It would be helpful if certain buttons had tactile cues, such as texture, shape, or patterns of raised bumps.

  • How about resting your eyeballs on the screen, so you could easily change the channel with a free arm. TV's don't have panels anymore, most of the functionality is in the remote, so that won't work.

    How about just watching less TV, when you don't feel like moving anymore?
  • Why would I need some remote control, that speeds down the zapping process?

    First I need to find it too, that sucks. Why couldn't they make something prevents me from looking for the remote for half an hour in the first place. It's faster to manually control the tv 9 out 10 times.
    Why would I need a television anyway?
    Oh, I do really hate the television crap they put on air, it seems every time I'm zapping I see a 'police academy' rerun or a 'married with children' passing by. As soon as you notice the laugh-
  • A turkish company made it or licensed a technology.

    Guess why they gave up? TV changed channel immediately when someone spoke about other channel :)

    I can't totally remember but I guess a washing machine has been victim about same thing, started washing whenever someone spoke about clothes.

  • during an advert, the sound channel could say:

    "REMOTE, change to fox news"

The F-15 Eagle: If it's up, we'll shoot it down. If it's down, we'll blow it up. -- A McDonnel-Douglas ad from a few years ago