TiVo Preps “Vox” Offering (with voice remote)

As TiVo continues to find itself, post Rovi merger, details have emerged on what looks like a new retail-focused offering called Vox.

TiVo has submitted six trademark requests with the USPTO for both the TiVo Bolt Vox and the TiVo Mini Vox. While multiple entities have seemingly confirmed to me that “Vox” is a thing, I’ve got nothing else to go on at this point… although I’m always willing to speculate. And one area in which TiVo has started to the lag the competition is in voice control. Comcast has offered an Xfinity voice remote for years, as one example, and DISH just brought Alexa to the Hopper. So given TiVo’s deficiency, the Latin origins of “vox” along with its current day usage, years of voice research at the original TiVo, and some strong natural language processing capabilities from the Rovi contingent, voice seems like a solid possibility.

Beyond the back-end infrastructure, how and where would TiVo deliver Vox voice services? An updated remote control (relayed by a tipster above) seems like an obvious choice, as Apple, Roku, Amazon and others provide. Yet why re-brand Bolt and Mini hardware? I suppose they could go that route if it’s simply a pack-in, but a more compelling approach might be new set-top hardware with always-listening microphones as implemented by Amazon Echo, Google Home, and the new ecobee4 smart thermostat. And the Mini is long overdue for a refresh, both in terms of its industrial design and corporate promises of 4K streaming to match its Bolt DVR hub.

Of course, I could also be going down the entirely wrong path here with Vox being something else entirely such as TiVo’s upcoming cloud DVR service. Place your wagers in the comments.

28 thoughts on “TiVo Preps “Vox” Offering (with voice remote)”

  1. Let me guess … the TiVo Vox is going to start “explaining” things to me in incredibly verbose and long-winded posts that don’t include a TLDR?

  2. Just want a normal TiVo with 2 gigs memory, would like to have UTube and Netflix, and maybe another steaming Service built in, but not exotic. Plain Jane remote is fine..
    No need for voice just to have it malfunction most of the time.

    Regular Tivo

  3. A few more fun (and modern!) nuggets have come my way (thanks tipster!) that I’ll research and get up in the next few days… :)

    junger, I see what you did there.

  4. I think this might be compelling. I’m a long time Mac/iPhone user and I never used Siri until I bought the current-gen AppleTV. Its voice command features work really well for this type of application of searching for video content. I not only hope this is true, I hope the remote and voice functionality end up being compatible with previous hardware such as the Roamio via a future software upgrade.

  5. I still don’t use voice commands on my cell so I would only be interested if this does something more than the regular Bolt Pro. I also don’t use Netflix due to no ability to download the shows to the TiVo.

    Is this a cable company box? I know your post says retail though. This would be the only reason I can see to have an On Demand button unless I am reading the green button wrong.

  6. I can’t believe they haven’t simplified the remote. So many buttons. A numeric keypad is for people like my 80+ year-old dad.

  7. Tivo needs to get its basic prodict right first before they get too fancy. I have had 3 roamio and none of them any good !! Thank God for Roku !!

  8. Brennok, good observation re: the remote that was provided after the original post went up. The USPTO filings are almost certainly specific to retail. Of course, most of what’s available to retail customers also makes its way into hardware/services procured via cable companies, so it seems conceivable a similar feature with or without “Vox” branding would end up in that channel as well. Although it’s worth mentioning Comcast and Cox retail TiVo customers can access those providers respective on demand services.

    Ben M, may depend on how the voice remote links up. Bolt shipped with Bluetooth… turned off. No other TiVo hardware currently offers BT. Not to say it’s a prerequisite or something that couldn’t be overcome with a dongle, but something to think about.

    Scott, if/when a voice-cable remote or STV ships, old folks like me can still utilize the numeric keypad for live television while you whipper snappers can bark commands at TiVo. TiVo, go fix me turkey pot pie!

  9. I would rather see TiVo roll out Hydra, fix Plex playback issues and improve overall stability before adding some buggy voice control people won’t use. “Hey TiVo, stop crashing” would be my only use for this feature.

  10. Still not entirely sold on Hydra, which I hear is now delayed until late 2017. It’s one of those things you have to live with before passing judgement I think. And change is generally hard. I like the idea of a customizable menu for sure – my TiVo apps might actually get some use. Then again, decent voice control would (should) bring similar. TiVo, open Netflix.

  11. Huh, I like the fact that a Tivo remote has a lot of buttons.. or rather, it mostly has the buttons that are useful. I use the number buttons frequently, though often to go to CNN if the tuners have all changed. (That’s the only channel I routinely use the 30 minute buffer for.)

    Actually, I think Tivo remotes are by far the best remotes I’ve used.

  12. Oh Boy. Can’t wait. Not. Voice control is not a feature that will sway me. A checklist feature that has little value. Love our TiVo. Worked my way through three generations. But, besides the stellar user interface and concordant capabilities which really makes the product, TiVo really lags when it comes to apps. Also their ‘standard big hitter’ apps like Netflix and Amazon, are just sluggish or often hang. I can only say ‘lame’ here. Compared to, say, Roku or my LG smart tv, TiVo really needs to step up their game. I find myself questioning the cost/capability tradeoff with respect to other products. Thought I would never consider anything better, but the game has moved up the field and TiVo seems to be sitting on the sideline. Love my TiVo, but starting to crave smooth, expanded capabilities in other boxes/sets.

  13. LTSkier, that was the first link in the post. :) But no one clicks the relevant links. Thousands of page views, and it was clicked just 23 times. Whereas when I put those spammy, risque Taboola “recommended” ads below the post, they’d generate dozens and dozens of clicks. Calgon take me away!

    By the by, this will be the third TiVo CEO they’ve lost in the last 15 months or so. Tom Rogers, the TiVo Inc CEO (who had been responsible for both saving the company through litigation and cable deals while damning them to mediocrity), stepped aside of ahead of the Rovi acquisition, then there was the interim CEO Naveen Chopra who should have been handed the reigns of TiVo earlier, and then this guy who was the Rovi CEO that became the “new” TiVo CEO.

    Perhaps more relevant to us is new hire Roz Ho, whose responsibilities include ownership of “retail” – http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170403005542/en/Roz-Ho-Joins-TiVo-Lead-Consumer-Metadata

  14. Voice control for me is a nifty, but it would have to be an always on feature, and work splendidly for me to use it with any sort of frequency. I have an Echo in my living room that I can use to control my thermostat, but if I don’t say the command exactly like Alexa wants to “hear” it, she doesn’t know what I want. I have to say “set hallway to XX degrees”, rather than “set the hallway AC to XX degrees”, for instance. It’s easy enough to correct when I say it wrong, but it is just as easy to open the Nest app and fix it.

    I have the same issues with my Honda voice activated navigation (which is why I wish they went to CarPlay sooner than 2018 for the Odyssey). I have a deep voice, but I have to almost impersonate Darth Vader to get it to recognize my commands. I must just be in an odd register for the Honda mic.

    Siri works pretty well for me, recognizing and responding to the widest array of questions or directions natively, and recognizing my natural speaking voice, even if I sometime speak softly. That would be my required performance level for TiVo voice commands to make it meaningful in my home.

  15. Oh god, the Mini needs a refresh. Faster CPU, Gigabit Ethernet, MoCA 2.0, 4k, new design. I could be persuaded to buy a new core DVR too, if I can do it for less than $500 all in, but that’s unlikely.

  16. Agree with ChuckO, Tivo’s apps languish needlessly. I don’t see the point of the Bolt since there are no 4K broadcasts, even on cable. I’m happy with my Roamio and mini setup right now. for 4K content I rely on Roku or cast to the our Vizio smartcast enabled “Monitors.” Tivo needs to update their apps at the tempo that the streaming set top boxes do.

  17. “Also their ‘standard big hitter’ apps like Netflix and Amazon, are just sluggish or often hang. I can only say ‘lame’ here. Compared to, say, Roku or my LG smart tv, TiVo really needs to step up their game.”

    “Agree with ChuckO, Tivo’s apps languish needlessly.”

    Methinks neither of you folks quite get that TiVo doesn’t write or control the OTT apps…

    (Tangentially, I’d far rather watch an Amazon or Netflix show from my TiVo via the unified OnePass list, rather than switch inputs, switch remotes, and start navigating around in an OTT app to find that show. But YMMV.)

  18. “Still not entirely sold on Hydra … It’s one of those things you have to live with before passing judgement I think.”

    Of course, unless things have changed, you can’t live with it before passing judgment, since there is no way to roll back to the current UI once you’ve started using it.

    Also, I think folks excited for Hydra in the lean-back are certifiably insane. It seems like a genuinely ludicrous UX for a DVR in the lean-back. But de gustibus non est disputandum, and all that…

  19. Finally, I think all y’all voluntarily sticking internet connected microphones in your homes are nutty. I actually purchased a separate Fire TV remote without a microphone because I’m just weird that way.

  20. Regarding app development, Chucky… TiVo does provide the platform. And has often collaborated on the end-product or pushed the service to a contract firm they use. Also, TiVo’s small footprint (relatively) contributes to the limited investment by the streaming services. It’s a pity that a $30 Roku performs more reliably and with more options…

    Regarding mics, I go back and for on this point. It’s the age-old paradox of security v convenience. I’d have suggested paranoia too, since the Fire TV remote theoretically requires you to press the button. But given Samsung TV tracking (and abuse of our trust), it’s a reasonable concern.

  21. I understand the TiVo only provides the platform, and the vendors provide the apps. However it’s the performance of the aps that gives me heartburn. Netflix on the TiVo versus Netflix on the LG TV versus Netflix on the Sharp TV with Roku are all the same. But its either sluggish or hangs on the TiVo often enough that I have just stopped going there for that app. I probably spend 90% of my viewing time within the TiVo interface. Most of the recordings are off cable. To me, it’s counterintuitive to TiVo programs that I can stream off of Netflix or Amazon for example. Besides I have enough trouble keeping the volume of programs below 90%, And I do have an extension drive. :-)

    My setup, while not main stream is not extraordinary. I have no cable or internet in the main house. My Romeo sits a half-mile away in a house with cable access. I backhaul ethernet with a point-to-point 5ghz link. This works reliably 95% of the time and I pull greater than 60 megabits per second with less than a millisecond of latency. My TV’s in the main house are connected via TiVo Minis. The Minis compared to the main Romeo unit are sluggish. Not bad but reminiscent of a series one or two.

    All of this is mainly just background for the following observations: it’s obvious to me that TiVo developed for wired networks. They even explicitly state that they don’t support wireless, although with a sufficiently reliable link it does just fine. The problem is with unreliable Links. Their transport protocols are brittle. With bad weather my link gets wonky. The Mini’s consistently loses connectivity with the main unit. I give up watching any recorded content. Switch to Netflix on the LG, and it just streams right along at full 4K definition without any issues or hangs at all. Netflix has the transport nailed.

    It appears to me that recently TiVo has been tweaking their transport protocols. Reliability with a wonky link has gotten better. It appears that they are now buffering a significant amount; when connectivity with the main unit drops out you can still see two three four seconds of video playing even though it said it’s lost connectivity to the main unit. So, it seems like they are at least trying to do something in this area.

    But what does all this have to do with Vox? As originally stated to me that is just another checklist feature. Hey we’ve got it too. It adds no value for me. I would rather they put their effort into making the box more solid. I would love to live a hundred percent within the TiVo interface. I think there’s a lot of things they could do to make it even better, although for recording and playback it’s pretty great as it is. Me thinks they are complacent relative to the completion and not “giving back with product development” relative to the revenue stream they generate with subscriptions. I’m just saying…

  22. Re: our collective digression into TiVo app performance:

    “I understand the TiVo only provides the platform, and the vendors provide the apps. However it’s the performance of the aps that gives me heartburn. Netflix on the TiVo versus Netflix on the LG TV versus Netflix on the Sharp TV with Roku are all the same. But its either sluggish or hangs on the TiVo often enough that I have just stopped going there for that app.”

    I obviously see the same performance lagginess for TiVo OTT apps that you do.

    But I just find it much, much, much easier and faster to watch OTT movies/shows via the TiVo interface than via my Fire or Roku.

    First, there is the (very minor) step of the input switch.

    Second is the larger step of grabbing the 2nd remote, and unless you have a Sidekick attached, keeping the TiVo remote handy for volume, etc. Then you have to mentally adjust yourself to the new remote, which takes a fair amount of mental friction.

    Third, you then need to adjust yourself to a completely different UI as you then navigate that new UI to find what it is that you intend to watch. This takes the most time, and the most mental friction.

    Compare and contrast to clicking an OTT movie/show in your unified TiVo list, waiting 10 to 15 seconds as your sluggish TiVo processes, and then voila! You are watching your show, with far, far less time delay, and far, far, far less mental friction. It’s all just seamless.

    Further, since I’ve pre-selected a movie/show on the TiVo, I’m not bothered by any lagginess inside the OTT app itself, since I don’t have to do any navigating there. Even when I’m binge watching a TV show, everything is already set up for me.

    Now, of course I’d prefer that the TiVo OTT apps weren’t so laggy. The 10-15 second wait is slightly annoying. But frankly, even though I’m a big believer in “YMMV” and “use-case-scenarios differ”, I genuinely don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t favor using TiVo for the OTT apps on offer there. And I’m usually pretty good at understanding when other use-case-scenarios exist. So I’m not sure if I’m missing something, or y’all are crazy.

    (The only caveat I can come up with is that you mention experiencing “hangs” on OTT apps, which I assume means actual crashes, rather than waits. I’ve only seen this once, and if I saw it on a regular basis, I might well feel differently.)

  23. “Third, you then need to adjust yourself to a completely different UI as you then navigate that new UI to find what it is that you intend to watch. This takes the most time, and the most mental friction.”

    Chucky, You are the first person I’ve ever heard say that navigating a Roku takes some kind of adjustment. It has the simplest UI that I have ever seen.
    Also, you need to check out a programmable remote. You will find yourself a 1 button push away from almost any device.

  24. “that was the first link in the post. :)” Doh! Sorry about that. TiVo is always trying to find itself so that link didn’t catch my attention ;-)

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