Before buying your next TV, you should make sure it comes with Google’s Assistant.
With Google Assistant, flat screens like LG’s latest portfolio of 4K TVs announced at CES 2018 — the B8, C8, E8, and the Wallpaper W8 series, and more — are getting a real dose of intelligence.
Unlike most smart TVs that come with what are essentially set-top box interfaces that deliver your content through apps like Netflix and Hulu, LG’s new TVs leverage the brains of Google to do basically everything a Google Home does.
Using the included voice remote, you can get the weather, play music, pull up a video, search Google, or control your smart devices.
Additionally, LG’s new TVs also come with voice controls for its own ThinQ smart home platform, which’ll let you control compatible devices like smart robot vacuums, smart ovens, and smart washing machines.
In other words, instead of needing a special ThinQ hub to link up all of your smart home devices, your TV is the hub.
And, with a special Alexa skill and an Amazon Echo, you’ll also be able to control select TV functions.
LG gave me an early look at new 2018 65-inch Wallpaper TV with the Google Assistant and LG ThinQ voice controls (they didn’t have an Echo with Alexa set up for me to try), and I liked what I saw.
Voice controls on your TV remote just makes sense. TV makers have been implementing press-to-speak voice controls into their remotes for years, but they’ve always been a little on the dumb side because their AI just wasn’t very good.
With a new A9 processor powering its 2018 TVs, LG claims they’re better at recognizing your voice and at deciphering your queries. Rather than rely solely on its own voice assistant and AI, LG’s TVs work in the background to decide which voice assistant is better suited to give you the best result.
For example, if you say something like “What is Mashable?” into the remote’s microphone, it’ll defer to the Google Assistant because it’s better at online search. And just like the Assistant in a Google Home, it’s contextually aware, so you can follow that question up with something like “And who founded it?”
But if you say “Turn on my LG smart robot vacuum,” your TV will tell LG’s digital assistant to start a cleaning.
I was told by an LG representative that the TV will try to surface video-related content first based on your requests. Makes sense, since you’re asking for things on a TV, that you use to watch things on.
All of this AI is supposed to happen in the background. Like most AI that’s being jammed into consumer electronics, the results are hit or miss. Sometimes it nails your voice commands and sometimes it doesn’t.
But even when the voice controls fail, you can’t help but believe in the Google Assistant, just like you do on a Google Home.
With Google Assistant, watching TV feels less like a robotic task and more like an interactive experience. It’s natural to want to find a YouTube video related to something you see on TV. Or want to look up an actor or actress’s Wikipedia after watching a movie they’re in. Or wanting to find out the upcoming weather forecast after the news tells you about the #BombCyclone.
Complementary things that you’d normally look up on your phone or computer can now be seamlessly on your TV with voice controls. It’s such a first-world solution, but that’s what everyone said about the Echo and its Alexa voice controls, and look at how big that’s become.
Picture quality is usually the most important feature on a TV — does it support 4K and HDR? — but I think it’s time we put more weight into TV intelligence.