TiVo puts life into hardware products by adding voice

When we assessed the chances of a merged TiVo and Rovi last April, we focused almost entirely on the IPR of TiVo – we even headlined it with “Rovi TiVo buy creates dominant TV UI patents force”

We gave no thought to how other Rovi technologies might revitalize the moribund “hardware” business of TiVo, making set tops. In truth the only reason that TiVo had ever gotten into hardware was because its manufacturing licensees did not fancy risking their cash on a DVR product which operators failed to support.

In the end TiVo went and convinced DirecTV that this was a viable way forward, and began making its own devices for the CPE and has never quite managed to get out of making set tops.

But the addition of voice and natural language understanding to either set tops or to smart speakers or voice remotes, has given the combined entity something of an opportunity.

This is fundamentally because of the metadata held by Rovi (TiVo as it is today) which when combined with its knowledge graph engine, and with natural language processing added, makes for a great method of content discovery.

The sale of 13.5 million voice remotes at Comcast Xfinity over the past few years, is testimony to that, powered by TiVo. It was previously powered by TiVo Metadata too, but we understand that this was replaced by Gracenote offerings this year, and yet it still uses the Conversation system of TiVo.

TiVo’s Conversation is a module within its Personalized Discovery Platform, allowing viewers to search what’s on TV using free-flowing conversational dialogue. The knowledge graph also considers user preferences and the context of the discussion.

We knew back in May that TiVo was planning such a move as it filed trademarks at the USPTO around an offered called Vox. This also included the brands launched this week, the TiVo Bolt Vox and the TiVo Mini Vox. Dish Network in the US also offers a link to Alexa for voice search.

Had TiVo decided not to put voice into future TiVo devices, it would be the death knell for its hardware division. But by embracing voice it may prove just the opposite. Operators which use TiVo devices will immediately become aware of the positive effect voice search has on Net Promoter Scores and general branding. Those operators will want their own hardware to have voice search and that’s where TiVo can help with Conversation.

The new additions today are the TiVo BOLT VOX and TiVo Mini VOX which come with the TiVo VOX Remote. Anyone buying one of those will get all the usual DVR toys that TiVo already offers, the on-screen TiVo UI, personalized recommendations and intelligent predictions. Also things like SkipMode and OnePass, but this time triggered by talking into the remote. SkipMode allows a single verbal command to jump an advertising break.

With the included TiVo VOX Remote, TiVo BOLT VOX viewers can use their voice to search across live TV, DVR recordings, video-on-demand and various online streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Vudu and Amazon Prime Video. Searches can also deliver personalized entertainment recommendations based on viewing habits. And, unlike many other TV platforms, TiVo lets users refine their voice searches in a natural way. For example, simply say “Show me movies with Tom Cruise,” then refine the query by saying, “Only the comedies” or “The one where he says, ‘Show me the money.’”

TiVo’s new QuickView feature allows viewers to see shows playing on different built-in tuners, favorite channels, a one-line channel guide, and TiVo’s new SmartBar, a personalized prediction of shows to watch at that time influenced by prior viewing behavior – all without leaving the TV viewing experience.

The TiVo BOLT VOX comes with four tuners, and 75 HD hours or 150 HD hours and there is a larger version with six tuners for cable systems. The TiVo BOLT VOX starts at $200 and the TiVo Mini VOX at $180.

Existing TiVo BOLT, TiVo Roamio and first-generation TiVo Mini customers can upgrade to voice control by purchasing a separate TiVo VOX Remote at just $40 to $50.