TCL Picks TV AI Startup Disruptel to Bring Visually Aware Voice Assistants to Smart TVs

TCL has unveiled a deal with TV AI startup Disruptel to embed a voice assistant responsive to questions about on-screen content in future smart televisions. Disruptel’s platform offers real-time answers and can support voice commerce via contextually targeted ads on-screen and provides an alternative to Amazon or Google and their rapidly escalating variety of services.

Disruptel TV

Disruptel’s connected TV (CTV) platform provides several features matching what Alexa, Google Assistant, Roku, and other voice assistants offer viewers to navigate content and learn about programs. Where Disruptel stands out is the contextual awareness of the screen, recognizing who or what is visible at each moment. Viewers can ask the AI questions as though it were watching along, asking about the person wearing a blue hat, or, as in the image above, “who’s the guy on the right?” The AI can also show ads and carry out transactions should viewers see something they want to buy on their TV.

“Our new partnership with TCL will enable us to create the world’s smartest TVs, changing the way viewers consume and interact with CTV content,” Disruptel CEO Alex Quinn explained. “Global TV manufacturers like TCL have the opportunity to reshape what it means to enjoy CTV, and we’re excited to have found a partner committed to innovating in this space. Together we are manufacturing an even smarter TV viewing experience that connects hardware, software, programmers, and advertisers directly for the first time.”

The St. Louis-based startup launched five years ago and has raised about $2.1 million, mainly through a $1.8 million seed round that closed last March. The startup’s investors include Adam Cheyer, the co-founder of Siri and Samsung Bixby’s tech source Viv Labs.

“Disruptel is at the forefront of artificial intelligence, leading the way with its applications within video and TV,” Cheyer said in a statement. “The company’s platform represents the next generation of voice assistants, powering a multi-modal solution that can meld voice requests with on-screen visual content and respond accordingly.”

TV Talk

Amazon and Google are both making a point of emphasizing voice AI in their smart TV products. That’s why the new Amazon-produced Fire TVs includes a version with a far-field microphone for hands-free Alexa access. Alexa also upgraded its X-ray feature with improved conversational abilities. Google, meanwhile, has set up individual profiles on Google TV so that Google Assistant can personalize recommendations and information.

Even Netflix is jumping into the voice assistant competition. The streaming service has partnered with SoundHound to add voice AI to its new Da Vinci Reference Design Kit (RDK), so smart TV set-top manufacturers can just integrate Netflix’s SoundHound-supported voice AI instead of building their own. The voice assistant extends beyond TV to smart home devices and even food orders and other voice transactions, though not the targeted ads described by Disruptel so far. The multi-modal interactions all on the TV might have another benefit, according to TCL, by keeping viewers attentive and not looking at their phones.

“Connected TV continues to evolve, and TCL’s mission is to lead the industry in creating engaging viewing experiences,” TCL Electronics CEO Shaoyong Zhang said. “By using their visionary voice assistant technology, Disruptel allows us to create groundbreaking new ways for viewers to interact with Smart TVs and Connected TV content. By eliminating the need for a second screen while watching TV, this partnership will increase engagement and develop new viewing opportunities.”


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