This is getting ridiculous. I dismissed out of hand the nice lady recounting her neighbor’s infatuation with Xfinity’s new voice remote. I also paid no heed to Verizon’s announcement of a similar remote. Then last week a customer threatened to return his Control4 remote because it didn’t have voice capabilities (I managed to put that conversation back in the box by explaining Alexa integration and Control4’s voice scenes).
One thing’s becoming clear; voice remotes aren’t going anywhere and consumers love them. All of that would be no problem for our industry save one minor detail: We don’t have a decent voice remote to offer our clients. Let me be clear, I’m not talking about an Alexa skill or Google Home integration, I’m talking about a physical remote with a microphone icon on it offering deep global search integration into all connected technology.
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I feel like this is one of those moments akin to the world just before HDMI, WiFi, or decent mesh wireless networking broke loose. We spent a ton of energy as an industry pouring cold water on the new technology because of reliability. Sometimes we understood when the cold water stage ended and sometimes we needed to be led. I’m not sure where we are this time around, but we’re somewhere in that cycle right now with voice remotes.
Maybe you’re experiencing the same friction, maybe you think I’m crazy. Maybe both? Either way, it’s worth tripping the voyage fantastic through my fancy grid below that was created to highlight our complete lack of voice remote control offerings. If any manufacturers are reading this, I’d love to hear from you. Set me straight. Show me the error of my ways. Send me something to test. Please. I’m dying over here.
As you can see, most manufacturers acknowledge voice control is important (or at least acknowledge they’ve been competitively forced into building a skill to claim voice compatibility). There seems to be two distinctly different camps emerging. The first group says, “We’re going to let you switch sources and turn things on and off.” The second says, “We’re going to let you ask for a specific movie or TV show and we’ll take care of the rest.” I don’t know about you, but the only reason I’m interested in “Turn on Hulu,” is so I can watch Handmaid’s Tale. In short, our customers are gravitating the way they always have; towards the path of least resistance, even if that means giving up some quality along the way.
Don’t get me wrong, the sky isn’t falling, but we need to wake up and have a strategy to engage with any clients expressing interest in voice remotes. For now, ours will be to continue extolling the virtues of a hands-free experience with Amazon Alexa. We won’t warranty any of our voice control setups, and all support is time and materials.
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I look forward to our manufacturers deepening their voice search capabilities from the handheld remote. What are you doing about voice remote friction in your business?
Stay frosty, and see you in the field.