updated 01:40 pm EST, Mon February 20, 2012
Google TV may get natural voice and proximity tech
Google is now known to have applied for a patent that could give Google TV natural language voice commands of its own. The method would use a smartphone or tablet as a voice remote, optionally using a technique similar to Google Translate or Apple's Siri where the commands are uploaded to a server and then deciphered. It could be used for searching both TV and local content, and could send information to more than one computer or device on the network.
The feature could go directly to a TV or set-top box with Internet access. By having a mobile app do much of the querying, it could also fill in the feature for devices that can connect on the local network but which don't have voice search. Google makes a point of using a natural sentence such as "when is Seinfeld on?" rather than the arbitrary queries of something such as Android's Voice Actions.
An additional part of the patent would even use proximity to trigger a TV or similar device: similar to geofencing for Latitude's automatic check-ins in Android or across iOS 5, it could turn the TV on as a phone or tablet owner nears home and would flip to a preset channel or music playlist.
The patent has seen an uncharacteristically quick application process and has gone from an initial filing on September 29 to a published, though not granted, listing just late last week. While it's unlikely Google was directly aware, its application came just days before Apple unveiled the iPhone 4S and helped take voice commands mainstream. Multiple rumors have suggested that Apple was working on a Siri-powered TV set that would go one step further than Google's proposal and let TV owners talk directly instead of through a proxy device.
As with most such patents, there's no guarantee that the inventions will translate to real products or that they should work exactly as described. However, they show that Google may have been thinking about a voice-guided TV platform in rough parallel to Apple and could be in an unintentional race to get its solution to market first. [via Patently Apple]