There some time there has been speculation that Apple might get into the television business and the past months have seen the rumor mill heat up significantly. Still, questions remained open with regard to what such tv would actually be and why Apple would enter a market with such small margins in the fist place. After all, if Apple is going to enter into a new market they tend to do it in a manner that reinvents things and the do it in a manner that allows them huge margins that translate into tremendous profits. Then Apple released the iPhone 4S with Siri integration and the possibilities exploded. Suddenly it made sense that Apple might just enter the television market and, in so dong, reinvent the tv interface so it now used voice recognition to simplify navigation, something that now often seems to require an advanced degree. In addition, it made sense that if Apple were to do this they could also go a step further, making the television a communications and entertainment hub. Heck, with voice recognition baked in the television could become a productivity tool as well.
Well things became much cleaner, and the likelihood of Apple doing this more likely thanks to this morning’s announcement from Nuance. Yes, Nuance, the leader in voice recognition technology has just announced that such voice technology not only exists but that it will soon be coming to a television or settop box near you. The press release’s title spells it out quite clearly when it says,
TV, Device and Set-Top Box OEMs and Service Operators Will Transform the Digital Living Room with Nuance’s Voice, Natural Language Understanding and Touch Innovations for Content Discovery and Social Media Engagement
Dragon TV is a unique voice and natural language understanding platform for TV, device and set-top box OEMs and service operators. Dragon TV makes finding and accessing shows, movies and content in today’s digital living room easy and fun for consumers. Leveraging Nuance’s renowned voice and natural language understanding capabilities, Dragon TV creates the “lean-back experience” consumers demand, with the ability to easily find content by speaking channel numbers, station names, show and movie names. People can even search for content by actor and genre – and stay connected via Twitter, Facebook and Skype.
Dragon TV uses Nuances renowned natural language understanding technologies allow consumers to say virtually anything to quickly and easily discover shows, movies and more. For instance, people can say:
“Go to PBS”
“What’s on Bravo at 9 p.m. tonight?”
“When is Ellen on?”
“Watch Dexter on DVR”
“Find comedies with Vince Vaughn”
“Play David Guetta on Music Choice”
Furthermore, Dragon TV will also make it easier than ever for people to make use of the messaging and social media capabilities many televisions currently offer, such as email, messaging, Twitter, Facebook and Skype. As Nuance explains, with Dragon TV people can say:
“Send message to Julie, ‘Old School is on TBS again this weekend – super excited’”
“Send update to Facebook, ‘Anyone else looking forward to Celebrity Wife Swap?’
“Call John via Skype” and be talking in no time
It this sounds a lot like the next generation of Siri it should. Despite company refusals to acknowledge that their technology currently powers Siri (during a phone conversation I had with one of Nuance’s executives some months ago my push to get such acknowledgement brought a response of “we can neither confirm nor deny that Nuance is the technology employed in Siri” he then added something to the effect of “but it is pretty amazing isn’t it?”), it seems clear that Nuance’s voice recognition technology powers Siri and that what we are seeing is just the beginning. (Apple even refers to the current form of Siri as a beta.)
Those of us who follow this space assumed that Siri would power an Apple Television and many of the functions described in Dragon TV are Siri-like enough that this functionality is not surprising.
What is surprising is the fact that Nuance is making this announcement before Apple has announced anything and Nuance is making the technology widely available to OEMs in the very near future. As the release states, Dragon TV will allow “…TV, device and set-top box OEMs, and service operators to take advantage of the content available on the device and in the cloud.”
Suddenly there is a real possibility that Apple might not be first out of the gate with a voice-powered television.
The features of Dragon TV are more than a bit Jetsonesque. For example it will offer:
Seamless Application Control: Digital home devices are now integrating applications for e-mail, social networking and interactive communication. Dragon TV offers a straightforward and simple method of input to drive adoption.
Discovering: A wealth of information is now available over TV, including program guide listings, personal media and web content. Dragon TV delivers a seamless, universal search solution allowing users to access this content with ease.
Messaging: From social networking to e-mail, the availability of messaging applications on TV continues to grow. With Dragon TV users are empowered to interact and communicate via an integrated text and speech solution.
Accessibility: Governments and standards bodies are now mandating accessible solutions for TV. Leveraging Nuance’s core speech technologies and natural language understanding, Dragon TV makes TV accessible to everyone.
Complex Acoustics: With Nuance’s Far-Talk technology, Dragon TV is able to break through the interferences of multiple acoustic sources and focus on what’s important for interpreting commands – the users voice.
In other words, Dragon TV will not only change the way we interact with our televisions but it will also extend the functionality of the “idiot-box” making it smarter than ever.
Don’t run out to Best Buy for a Dragon TV-powered television just yet however. While Dragon TV is now available for TV, device OEMs, operators and developers and supports all major TV, set-top box, remote control and application platforms, including Linux, Android and iOS it will now be in the hands of manufacturers to integrate the new technology. That might take some time and give Apple the chance to be first to market with such a talking tv. Then again, with Nuance’s announcement this morning, other companies might opt to pour their resources into fast-tracking product or they may even have been developing them for some time in secret and could just beat Apple to the punch. Now wouldn’t that be something.