AT&T U-verse unveiled a new app that lets U-verse customers turn their iPhone or iPad into a TV remote control that can be activated by voice or hand. Called the U-verse Easy Remote App, which customers can download for free in the App Store, it lets customers control their TV through their iPad or iPhone with voice commands such as: channel up, fast forward, rewind, replay, pause, and record. For users who would rather let their hands do the talking, the app is also flexible enough to respond to touch gestures for controlling the TV.
The voice control functions are made possible by AT&T’s Watson speech recognition technology, which relies on “advanced natural language processing” to recognize and interpret spoken words. The technology is advanced enough to respond properly for users to simply say the same of a specific TV show or channel they want to watch.
“Tell the system what you want and it will find it for you,” said Juergen Schroeter, executive director of AT&T research. “You speak, it gives you an answer, you select it, and done.”
The app was designed to accommodate people with disabilities, such as the vision and hearing impaired. In addition to the app’s voice recognizing capabilities, it can also customise different color and font size choices and access closed captioning with one touch of a button.
“Most Americans rely on their television as a critical source of news and entertainment and it is important that these resources be made accessible for all users,” added Larry Goldberg, director of WGBH’s Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media. “It is great to see an app like Easy Remote apply many of the universal design features that improve access for customers both with and without disabilities.”
This is a forward thinking app that has practical uses beyond accommodating people with disabilities. It would be nice to see other pay TV providers do the same, though one wonders if they have to develop their own voice recognition technology or if they must acquire it through another company. Either way, the hope is that the cost is not prohibitive, since this technology is useful to every TV viewer—no matter who their pay TV provider is.