On Talking to Myself: GoogleTV’s new voice control feature arrives on the Sony NSZ-GS7
Well, it finally happened. After months of waiting, our Sony Google TV “buddy box” (or the NSZ-GS7, as we like to call it around here…not really…) finally got its upgrade to the new software version. After the Vizio Co-Star’s update started rolling out, I might add.
To refresh your memory, this update is only for GoogleTV devices 2011 and later — our 1st-generation Sony TV and Blu-ray player won’t ever get the voice control features in this software version. And this latest update isn’t a massive overhaul of the user interface (which is probably what GoogleTV really needs.) Here we’ll highlight three of the changes:
- What was the “TV&Movies” app is now called “PrimeTime.” (Whew. Good thing for that. ??)
- Now, you can send YouTube videos from your Android phone or tablet to the big screen.
- And, probably the biggest new thing in the update: You can tell GoogleTV what to do, although, this depends on your system and setup.
So, post-update, on your GoogleTV, you’ll be able to open web pages, change the live TV channel, and search for a movie just by speaking a few words into your remote control. Sounds great, right?
Here’s how it really works:
In our lab tests, the voice control features are hit or miss, depending on hardware. When GoogleTV project manager Rishi Chandra demonstrates the feature on an LG device in the video embedded here, it works pretty well and actually seems to be something I might use.
Well. We weren’t able to replicate Rishi’s experience with our Sony NSZ-GS7.
For starters, and unlike LG’s Magic Remote, the remote control that comes with the Sony streamer doesn’t come with a microphone. As we learned at CES, that’s “coming” from Sony.
Until then, even though we have the GoogleTV update on our “buddy box,” we wait. (It kind of reminds me of the old Steven Wright line: “I got a walkie-talkie. It doesn’t work.”)
Smart Phone App Option
All is not lost. Turns out the voice control and search features are also available on your iOS or Android smart phone, which gave us a way to run a few simple tests.
Alas. That didn’t work out so well either! Both mobile apps had trouble connecting to our GoogleTV devices, particularly the Sony NSZ-GS7 (which is the only one in the lab to get the voice control update so far.)
On the rare occasions that the app actually did connect to our GoogleTV, we had trouble getting its voice control features to work. While the “Search” feature worked fine, and did a decent job of recognizing speech, we couldn’t get anything to register as a “Command” as shown in Google’s demonstration.
Worse, when trying to issue a voice command such as “Open Netflix” or “Open Facebook,” there was zero feedback on the mobile app to indicate that it did or didn’t go through.
Google says that GoogleTV all about “reducing friction” and making it easier for people to get to the content they want. But as it is now, when used through the mobile app, Google’s voice control just adds another layer of frustration to a user experience that is already too complex.
So, it doesn’t look like we’ll be having a conversation with GoogleTV anytime soon. Connection issues are always a turnoff. Voice control, the main attraction of the update, didn’t work. For us, this update goes into the dustbin that is “most people won’t try that hard.”
We’ll give this another go just as soon as we get that new Sony remote with the built-in microphone.