Despite the fragmentation in the IoT market, perhaps a common feature that might essentially be integrated into everything connected is voice control. The technology has gained significant traction in the video market, being highlighted as an advanced consumer-friendly feature for both linear video and OTT platforms. And it’s looking to steal some of the spotlight at the upcoming CES Jan 5-8 in Las Vegas. We chatted with Universal Electronics’ COO Lou Hughes about the shift from the traditional user interface to a world of vocal computing. The company develops universal control and sensing technologies and supports Comcast’s voice control-enabled X1 platform.
Moving forward, what new voice technologies are coming and what new services will they enable? The key with building voice into remote controls is to bring higher and higher levels of accuracy in search query response rates without increasing the cost. We are developing silicone, software and mechanical designs that will enable us to drive our search accuracy to over 95% without expensive noise cancellation. Our goal is to deliver zero distortion to the voice engine at the box and/or cloud. Nobody is close to us in this regard. Is the consumer electronics industry moving to a world of vocal computing? What does the potential gradual disappearance of traditional user interface mean for the cable industry? I don’t see traditional interfaces for extremely simplistic one-touch commands going away. Using voice to replace your channel up/down button or your volume up/down solution doesn’t make much sense. For these types of actions, it is so much easier to just press a button. The goal when you add voice is to limit the number of keys required on a remote and to simplify the user interface on the screen, so that the whole process of interacting with your content is simpler. What are the challenges as you work with OTT and cable providers to integrate voice services? We have learned that there are varying degrees of success in fulfilling voice search queries received from the remote control on the couch. It’s not about whether it works, it is about how well it works. Voice remote solutions that only successfully fulfill 70% of voice search queries frustrate consumers so much that usage drops off before complete adoption can take place. You must know the specific standards and requirements of the voice search engine you are delivering to, and you better have a strong means of testing in high volumes within many different environments against that engine to be successful. No matter what delivery route is used to offer content to subscribers—navigation with a hand held device will not go away. Regarding CES, do you expect any new trends this year versus last year? Comcast X1 platform has spurred a revolution, and the move to voice search across the industry is inevitable. That’s because consumers are being deluged by so many content choices, and the only efficient way to navigate and search through the near endless trove of programming is by using one’s voice. Many hand-held devices are moving towards new, innovative backlighting solutions for low light environments and for our aging population. This includes what we call “reverse etch” backlighting, where only the number or letter is lit up (and not the key around it), which provides much clearer key recognition then traditional backlighting solutions. Automatic detection and effortless configuration will become a standard in entertainment device control in 2017. Consumers are demanding simplicity and ease of use. The smart home is a house divided. There are simply too many different standards for so many smart devices. One way we’re working to solve this problem is by developing bridge and translation devices that can communicate with more hubs—ultimately allowing consumers to mix and match devices and hubs running different communication protocols. What’s your plan at CES? We want to generate greater appreciation for Quickset Cloud and how it is easier than ever to integrate with Linux and Android tv’s and set top boxes.