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Comcast Launches Vocal TV Guide

The newly available Comcast X1 cable box contains a breakthrough feature to assist viewers with channel programming information. It is a vocal TV guide that provides a voice description of the program title, run time, rating, and other details. 


According to Comcast's CEO Brian Roberts, this new feature will be especially valuable to those customers who are visually impaired and who find it difficult to read the fine text on the existing program information windows. He has stated that this is the first in a series of developments that work exclusively with the X1 platform. It is not an interactive feature yet - as is the already existing X1 remote app - but is nevertheless groundbreaking.


Voice Guide Features


Most cable and satellite television customers either watch a program at its designated time slot or record it to watch later. The latter choice involves searching for a particular series show, newscast, movie, or sporting event, getting the details on time slot, and programming the box to capture the show for later viewing. 


This can be particularly difficult for those who are visually impaired. The new vocal TV guide offered by Comcast will help those who need voice assistance to properly program the event. The voice assistance is activated as a menu guide, with a carefully laid-out screen display that is easy to read.


As an example, a viewer who wants information about a movie can activate the voice assistance feature, choose an on-demand video presentation, and check to see the running time, program slot, and even customer reviews.

How It Works

The customer must have the new X1 cable box in order to use this new software feature. The box comes with a remote that has a clearly marked "A" button. Tapping the button once will activate the X1 help menu. A second click turns the voice assistance feature on or off.


The talking guide is a realistic female voice that assists with pre-programming settings for those who want to watch the show at a later time, but it also helps by verbally communicating anything the user wants to know about the program. Those who are blind or who have a severe level of visual impairment will find the vocal guide extremely helpful. The software has been designed to allow the user to respond to verbal prompts by selecting the appropriate button on his/her remote.


The feature has already been tested in select markets and should be available nationwide by early December.


An Extension Of The X1 Remote App


Using one's smartphone to operate the television and other entertainment systems is already becoming popular. Comcast has already introduced the X1 Remote App, a feature that allows the user to initiate commands through voice. This interactive programming feature requires using a phone that contains a mic. The user can actually use his/her voice to activate menu screens and even program the TV settings.


Combining this technology with the new vocal TV guide gives Comcast customers much more freedom in how they interact with their cable provider. It is assumed that the entire menu and programming guide will undergo some further changes in the near future in order for everyone to best take advantage of the X1 set-top box software. The latest Comcast remote given to customers when they use the X1 box contains all necessary buttons for this latest technology.


Newest Remote Design


Customers who have an X1 Entertainment set-top box will receive a newly designed remote that includes color-coded buttons. These are located in the center of the remote, with the "A" button on the left. The additional buttons, marked B, C, and D, will retain their original function for the time being, namely to present special information on the screen. For example, when customers are tuned to ESPN, the green "D" button might show as a menu prompt on the bottom of the TV screen for obtaining the latest sports scores.


Although the vocal TV guide now works in much the same way as a closed-caption screen feature, there are plans to further enhance the viewing experience by creating a vocal-prompt search function. The voice assistant will be able to help users navigate the program search without having to type in letters, as is now the case with most cable and satellite providers.


Included With Existing Plans


Perhaps the most common question will center around the possibility of increased cost or an added fee for this new feature. However, the voice control app and the vocal TV guide from Comcast is already included in any service level that includes the installation of an X1 set-top box. Actual rates for cable service will be for the type of bundled service desired - such as cable, Internet, and digital voice telephone - but there are no extra fees for the newly designed voice assist programming or software. It is already included in the set-top box itself.