Australian TV Service Foxtel Adds TiVo Voice Assistant with Quote-Based Search
Foxtel, Australia’s largest television subscription service, is adding TiVo’s voice search platform to its features. The partnership gives TiVo a major new potential customer base while positioning Foxtel as an alternative to the voice-enabled smart television offers from Amazon and Google as they continue to promote their voice assistants and smart home ecosystems in Australia.
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The agreement adds TiVo’s voice assistant to Foxtel’s live and on-demand content through the Foxtel Voice Remote and a compatible set-top box. The TiVo voice assistant is most notable for finding and playing content using famous quotes. For instance, pulling up Game of Thrones when told “Winter is Coming,” or Jerry Maguire when the user says, “Show me the money.” The voice assistant also understands all of the standard commands for controlling the television, setting recordings, and otherwise replacing the other buttons on the remote. TiVo’s knowledge graph engine continually adds new data from digital sources to improve its understanding of what people ask for and predict what people might want to watch.
“From simple commands through to browsing for something to watch or a deep-dive search for niche topics or more specific viewing and more, a lot of work has been done to make it a lot simpler,” Foxtel director of product innovation Nick Dandy said in a statement. “I’m from an era where you’d visit the video store and look at a few hundred titles to see if there was something you liked, but we have 40,000 individual titles here so we’ve made it easier.”
The smart TV competition has only grown more intense of late, with Google debuting a new Chromecast set-top and Amazon adding new and improved Fire TV options like the relatively cheap Fire TV Stick Lite. TiVo integrates both Alexa and Google Assistant into its own set-tops, but the extent of Foxtel’s Australian base gives the Xperi subsidiary a lot more juice suddenly. The appetite for smart home devices in Australia, including televisions, has only expanded this year. Australian research firm Telsyste found that almost two-thirds of Australian households have at least one smart home device and predict a 30% rise in the number of devices used in Australia this year.
That just continues the trend of Australian rapid adoption of smart speakers and connected devices. Amazon is usually the quarterly winner in global smart speaker sales outside of China, but Google devices took a big, early lead in Australia last year, according to Voicebot’s research. That was true even as the percentage of the country that owned at least one smart speaker leapt past the U.S. When it comes to talking to the TV, Foxtel may also have a local’s advantage in understanding what people say. Alexa and Google Assistant can both speak English with Australian accents and are trained to understand people speaking them, but there are many versions of the Australian accent. TiVo and Foxtel worked on making the smart TV grasp more than just the “standard” accent, a small but potentially decisive enticement to potential customers.
“We pre-recorded and tested thousands of quotes and sayings in the top 10 ethnicity language accents in Australia,” Dandy said. “Australian English with an Indian accent, or Vietnamese accent, and others. It’s already very successful in speech-to-text audio speech recognition.”