Sky Upgrades TV Voice Assistant With Personalized Recommendations From Streaming Services

British television service Sky Q has improved its voice search AI to come up with recommendations based on the user’s previous viewing, culled from multiple streaming platforms. Sky, which is owned by Comcast, is encouraging people to use the updated voice assistant and even giving away Sky Q Voice Remotes.

Sky AI

Pressing the blue microphone button on the Sky Q Voice Remote awakens the voice assistant as it has since it debuted in 2017, but there is a new menu activated by asking the voice assistant, “what should I watch?” The new command employs an updated algorithm to trawl through everything in your viewing history, although only from the box used to make the request, to come up with ideas on what you might want to watch. The search field has been expanded beyond Sky’s native streaming service, and Netflix to now include Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and the BBC. The resulting list can be watched or saved for later viewing. Sky imitates some of the streaming services in how it headlines the recommendations, citing what previously viewed content led to a suggestion, as well as picking out new shows based on the aggregate of what has been watched.

The new command adds to the existing search functions by actor, director, or genre. A couple of additional commands will bring up trailers for new and upcoming shows and movies when the user says “Get ready for 2021” or “Sky Unmissable.” To encourage more use of the voice assistant, Sky is giving some customers free voice remotes when they join the free Sky VIP program. Though not directly connected, the emphasis on voice control is reminiscent of Comcast subsidiary Xfinity’s push to incorporate voice into its services with new streaming service controls, interactive ads, NBC’s new Peacock streaming service, activation of Tile audio alerts, and even voting for singers on The Voice television show.

Smart TV Time

Sky may also be pursuing better voice search and control because of how many new and upgraded services have debuted of late, even when they aren’t direct rivals. SFR in France and Vodafone in Spain have made moves to enhance their smart TV services with new hardware. Both companies separately partnered with hardware developer Devialet to launch a new smart speaker in the last few weeks in their respective countries. The smart speakers are designed to act independently as well as integrate closely with their smart TV platforms. In Russia, search engine giant Yandex has added its Alice voice assistant to its smart TV platform, while Foxtel, Australia’s largest television subscription service, upped its own smart TV options by adding TiVo’s voice search platform. TiVo is working to improve its own offerings as well, arranging with Pindrop Solutions to bring vocal recognition technology to future hardware. And with Google and Amazon aggressively pursuing more of the smart TV market with new a new Chromecast set-top and new Fire TV Stick Lite, respectively, Sky can’t just rely on its current dominance in the UK to last forever without innovating.


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