David Zax

A View from David Zax

Could Apple TV Use Siri?

Let’s do away with cumbersome remotes, once and for all.

  • October 13, 2011

Now here’s an interesting idea, from Cross Research’s Shannon Cross, related to Siri, the “virtual personal assistant” integrated into the upcoming iPhone 4S. As she wrote in a note to investors last week:

We think it would be very compelling to own a TV or a device that could quickly answer the request, “I want to watch the Yankees/Red Sox game,” by changing the TV channel without requiring the user to look at a guide or use a remote control, or even specifying HD or standard definition feeds, since you would want the HD channel if available. Or, you could instruct the device to record all new episodes of a show, without leaving the program you are currently watching. Finally, since you are online, a Siri enabled TV could answer whether your iPhone or computer has received a new message, and let you respond accordingly.

Wouldn’t it be nice to finally do away with the remote control, a device that begins to look so clunky and antiquated in our era of iEverythings? Apple has not announced any plans to bring Siri to devices other than the iPhone 4S, but the idea doesn’t seem so farfetched. It’s quite possible that the next refresh of the Apple TV could use a speedier A5 dual-core chip, speculates Cult of Mac–which would give the device the processing power necessary to run Siri.

Indeed, press the fast-forward button (metaphorically–and besides, such buttons may not exist soon enough), and it almost seems like a Siri-enabled TV is an inevitability. Back when evidence was mounting that the next iPhone would employ Siri, I spoke to Norman Winarsky, VP of Ventures at SRI, which was heavily involved in the development of Siri. He expressed his belief that within a decade, virtual personal assistants would be ubiquitous, integrated into the fabric of many devices. “Within 10 years,” he told me, “we will see the value associated with virtual personal assistants throughout our marketplace to be in the many tens of billions—and [it] optimally might reach the 100-billion-dollar level.”

Some people have misunderstood what makes Siri powerful, mistaking what it does for mere voice recognition. Siri is good at parsing the words you say, but more importantly, its impressive artificial intelligence is able to discern their meaning, and take appropriate actions. Siri is a talker, but she’s also, crucially, a thinker. As smart TVs become a next battleground for internet-connected devices, let’s hope our remote controls get smarter, too.

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