LG announced last week that it will launch this year the ThinQ smart speaker with Google Assistant support. The ThinQ AI capabilities will also expand to televisions in 2018 and be demonstrated at CES next week. CNET reports:
LG’s ‘Intelligent Voice Control with Integrated Google Assistant’ will enable users to control numerous functions on the TV, as well as search from information taken from the Electronic Program Guide (EPG). LG says users will be able to issue commands such as ‘search for the soundtrack of this movie’ or ‘turn off the TV when this program is over’. The TV’s Google Assistant also allows control of compatible smart home devices and streaming audio products.
The voice interaction will take place through the TV remote. However, if you have a Google Home device you can control the TV through the smart speaker without the remote. Amazon Alexa integration will also be offered through a skill but CNET reports it will have more limited functionality. It appears that Google Assistant will be embedded in the TV so it will control or at least hand-off voice recognition inside the device. To use Alexa, you will need to use the Echo or compatible device and it will then talk to the TV. It’s a different access route and explains the differing levels of functionality.
Rise of the Domain-specific AI
Google Assistant is very good at performing many tasks, but feature depth for entertainment use cases will invariably come from companies such as LG. If you have ever used the Xfinity voice remote from Comcast you will understand what I mean. There are many nuances to finding specific entertainment properties you are looking for and even more for discovering content. Being able to search for items in a program guide is far superior to scrolling. However, being able to ask for all movies with Clint Eastwood and see which are free and which require payment is an entirely different set of expertise. This is what domain expertise brings to generalized AI capabilities like Google Assistant. The third party experts enhance the user experience. It is a big opportunity for companies like LG.
TV as a Node in the Smart Home
The ThinQ product line from LG also is positioning the TV as a key node in the AI-driven smart home. Voice has a lot of utility in improving the television viewing experience. Once you have voice interaction, it is not a big leap to make that an integrated node in your smart home and support other voice assistant use cases. Wireless speaker manufacturers started viewing voice integration as a critical feature in 2017. TV producers like LG are coming to that same conclusion for 2018. I expect to have more insights for you from CES next week.