Netflix Taps SoundHound to Develop Voice Assistant for TV Set-Top Boxes
Netflix will add a voice assistant provided by SoundHound to its new Da Vinci Reference Design Kit (RDK) product. Smart TV set-top manufacturers won’t have to create their own voice assistant; instead, they can integrate Netflix’s software already augmented with SoundHound’s voice AI to enable hands-free search and control of streaming content and connected smart home devices.
RDK is an open-source platform increasingly popular with companies building broadband gateways, Internet of Things devices, and set-top TV boxes. RDK Management’s survey in May estimated more than 80 million devices were using the platform globally, a number that has only risen since. Infusing Netflix’s new RDK addition with SoundHound’s voice AI will give viewers the option to converse with their TV using casual language and sentence fragments, as can be seen in the video above.
Viewers could ask for shows or movies with adjectives like funny or heartwarming or start by specifying a performer then following up for specific release dates or lengths. With content playing, viewers can skip around by asking or catch a whispered dialogue by telling the AI they missed a line, causing it to replay the last few seconds with subtitles. The voice assistant is not just for streaming content. SoundHound claims it will handle food orders and other commerce, as well as sync with smart lights and other devices, turning the TV into what is essentially a sizeable smart display.
“Rising consumer demand for greater convenience and ease of use has created more opportunities to bring the power of voice AI to products—extending the functionality of the device while providing easier access to content, purchasing opportunities, and even controlling other devices in the smart home,” SoundHound vice president of products James Hom said in a statement.
Netflix has been exploring more voice partnerships of late. The streaming giant recently worked with Amazon to add a Fire TV command where viewers can ask Alexa to “Play Something on Netflix” and get a video playing immediately. The actual content is chosen by Netflix’s algorithm to be something the user might like but might not have selected through scrolling. The collaboration with Netflix pairs well with the new Amazon-produced Fire TVs’’ voice focus, including far-field microphones and new TV conversational abilities for Alexa. The interest in voice stands in contrast to Netflix teasing how voice assistants might struggle with accents in ads for Lupin and the voice assistant supervillain voiced by Oscar-winning actress Olivia Colman this year in Netflix’s film, “The Mitchells vs. The Machines.”
The news also shows SoundHound isn’t ignoring development as it plans to go public on Nasdaq as SOUN next year. The listing will happen once SoundHound merges with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Archimedes Tech SPAC Partners Co. in a deal valuing SoundHound at $2.1 billion with $244 million in gross proceeds. SoundHound’s Houndify already supports all or part of the voice AI for Hyundai and Kia cars, White Castle restaurants, social media apps like Snapchat, and even other streaming services like Pandora. Netflix working with the company will likely only boost the company’s profile and value ahead of its Wall Street debut.