A patent filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office last autumn shows that Google is creating a Siri-like voice interface for controlling television via Android phones.
According to Patently Apple, the patent describes a cloud-based system for issuing voice commands to an Android phone, which will then control a set-top box, smart TV, DVR, or other device.
Similar to Apple's still-in-beta speech recognition technology, Siri, voice commands made to the Android phone will be shipped to the cloud for interpretation and context. For example, if you ask "What time is the ball game tonight?" the phone might use your question, as well as the date, time, and your GPS location, to display (on your TV) when a game played by your local pro sports franchise will be aired.
The patent will also let users issue commands from up to a quarter of a mile away from their homes, so that when they arrive at their doorways their phones will automatically turn their TVs on and tune into a program they want to watch. This works for music, too--useful for setting a romantic mood when you arrive home with a special friend.
The system is also smart enough to jump to a program you've made a query about if the show is already in progress; schedule a reminder to watch it if it isn't on yet; or record it if you're not at home when the show is aired.
Google isn't the only one trying to tie speech recognition to TVs. Lenovo announced a voice-enabled TV earlier this year and Samsung has already unveiled a remote control that recognizes voice commands and has a touchscreen. And, of course, speech is supposed to be a big part of Apple's rumored iTV.
Google TV has had its ups and down. Last year, one of the early adopters of the technology, Logitech, threw in the towel after losing millions on it. That departure, though, was offset by the technology gaining the support of Samsung, LG and Sony.
Those big players in the TV market could be embracing Google TV to deliver a pre-emptive strike against the phantom Apple TV. Whether that's true or not, the fact is Google TV is no phantom. As Patently Apple writes, "Google TV is real, vastly improving--and has a rather cool smart TV remote on the way. It's really that simple for now."