Google announced the next big update for Google TV Wednesday, bringing advanced voice control, a new programming guide app and all kinds of smarts derived from Google’s Knowledge Graph to the platform. Google TV Product Lead Rishi Chandra told me during a briefing in Mountain View Tuesday that this time around, the focus has been all about removing friction and bringing a Google Now-like experience to the TV.
Voice as an extension of the remote
The most important new feature of the update, which has internally been called Google TV 3.0, is voice control: Users can trigger channel changes, start apps and fire up the program guide with simple voice commands. Of course, voice input for TVs isn’t entirely new: Microsoft’s Xbox already offers users voice control, and Samsung’s own TV platform uses voice as well.
However, Google’s approach is a bit different. The company decided to add the microphone to the remote control to allow users to use both. Chandra said that the good old D-Pad still works great for simple navigation tasks, which can be overly complicated if you want to solve them through voice or gestures. “It’s an enhancement of the remote control, not a replacement,” he said.
The second difference is that Google uses a lot of context to make sense of what people are saying. To demonstrate it, Chandra simply told the TV “GigaOM,” and it promptly fired up our website. The prompt “CNN” on the other hand led to a channel change. “Pixar movies” resulted in the program guide displaying live TV and on-demand results, and “how do I cook marinara sauce” fired up a YouTube cooking video showing off a recipe.
The domination of the big broadcast networks is coming to an end.