TiVo Voice Remote Nears Release; Requires Hydra

Dave Zatz —  September 30, 2017 — 40 Comments

By way of the FCC, we gather the TiVo Vox Voice remote remains on track for a fall launch and that older Roamio hardware (running Hydra) will be supported via a USB Bluetooth dongle (vs Bolt’s native BLE capabilities). Details on voice interaction have also been prematurely provided, and behavior appears quite similar to Xfinity … which is a positive.

Voice Commands

To issue a voice command, press and hold the button, and speak naturally into the remote. Release the button when you have finished speaking.

Here are some things you can do with voice:

  • Search by title, actor, or keyword: “Find Modern Family” or “Show me some action movies.”
    HINT: Add on to your initial command to get more specific. For example, after the command,
    “Show me some action movies,” you could add “From the 80s…just the ones with Bruce
    Willis.”
  • Watch a show: “Play the latest episode of Modern Family.”
  • Launch an app: “Launch Netflix.”
  • Change channels: ”Go to NBC.”
  • Go to a TiVo menu screen: “Take me home,” or “Show me the Guide.”

40 responses to TiVo Voice Remote Nears Release; Requires Hydra

  1. I hope they add the voice capability to the software remote in the TiVo app much like Apple and Amazon have done with their apps.

  2. It appears that they’ve renamed the Zoom button to Exit. I suppose that’s one way to fix the problem I keep complaining to them about where pressing the Zoom button unexpectedly exits most of their third-party apps.

  3. Dang. Needs Hydra for Roamio. Maybe I should have signed up for the beta :)

  4. Looks like Netflix did their usual job of bullying their way onto the remote. I guess that’s a requirement when it comes to having their product offering on your box.

    I sure the hell wish they would make backlit remotes standard already.

  5. Doubtful but talking to echo to trigger these would be awesome

  6. They need to completely overhaul the UI and remote. There’s way too many buttons here.

  7. Ugh, not a dedicated Netflix button!!! Well, I hope they add a feature similar to what Roku has *finally* gotten around to, to confirm that you want to leave the content you’re currently viewing to switch to Netflix.

  8. Hmmm… though maybe I’ll *take* the Netflix button, as they seem to have figured out that the ‘Mute’ and ‘Record’ buttons should be aligned with their respective rocker buttons, for Volume Up/Down and Channel Up/Down… though it would probably have made more sense for the Last button to be paired with the Channel rocker.

  9. I’d love to see Echo integration. I’d rather talk to Alexa than the remote, simply out of habit.

  10. The addition of SKIP, EXIT, and Netflix buttons are welcomed just like the BACK button addition was on the previous remote release. I just started to use voice command on the Apple TV remote and it beats typing any day.

    I hope the TiVo Mini 4K with TiVo Voice remote are available for Christmas. After using the Epix app on a 1st generation TiVo Mini it’s obvious the current Mini is underpowered and the old remote (non-RF) is long overdo for replacement.

    As for the Epix app experience – the screen turns seconds while all remote commands queue up. The display lags behind terribly. Then upon selecting a movie to play it’s anoth 10 second blank screen. Sometimes the TiVo Mini freezes and the screen stays
    blank until you reboot.

  11. I am an Xfinity customer, and while I haven’t ever used their voice activated remote, judging by how poorly the voice recognition system on their customer service phone line works, telling the DVR to change the channel could launch a thermo-nuclear attack against Canada.

  12. Dedicated Netflix button is largely driven by Netflix…

    Regarding Echo, TiVo has been dabbling with an Alexa skill. We shall see if and when it’s released.

    Neil, the X1 voice remote is very good.

  13. “Dedicated Netflix button is largely driven by Netflix…”

    I question your take on this, Dave.

    I mean, if we’re to interpret “driven” as meaning “Netflix offered TiVo money, so they’re taking it”, well sure. But I have severe doubts Netflix would pull their app if TiVo didn’t put the button on the remote.

    (And yeah, I know Netflix has refused to do apps for small customer base platforms, but their TiVo app is already written. Hard to imagine they’d cut off actual existing customers if they didn’t get their button.)

  14. Given that I don’t have much interest in this remote, and also given that I really don’t want Hyrdra, (I know it’s supposed to be optional, but with Margaret gone, I worry), the fact that this seems to strongly imply that Hydra continues to be optional is the good news here.

    “By way of the FCC, we gather the TiVo Vox Voice remote remains on track for a fall launch and confirms that older Roamio hardware running Hydra will be supported”

  15. Hail Hydra (somebody had to say it :) ). Seriously though, I might get one these remotes. I’ve gotten used to Siri on the Apple TV, so I would like to see what this can do. I tried out the X1 voice remote at a relatives house and it’s as Dave says, it’s a good voice remote.

  16. I had missed the news of Margret leaving TiVo, but after reading Chucky’s comment, found and read Dave’s thread on TCF. That sucks, as she has been very helpful to the community over the years, and to me just earlier this year when my brother was having problem after problem with his new Bolt. I reached out to her, and within a day, my brother’s case was in the hands of an executive support staffer that stuck it out with him until the issue was corrected (even crediting back my brother the full cost of his Bolt so he could pick one up at the local Best Buy, and still letting him keep the $99 Lifetime transfer). All in all, it was a great experience, only possible through the help of Margret Schmidt.

    As for Hydra, thanks, but no thanks. Unless they have completely overhauled it from what we had previously seen, I will be avoiding it like grim death. I am hopeful it is not an easy upgrade, as I worry my dad or brother may see it and click to “upgrade” before I can stop them.

    I’m sure people that have voice remotes love them and use them a lot. I have it on Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV, and just don’t use either one. I use Alexa on my Echos for things like adjusting the temp, checking the time or playing a song, but just don’t see myself getting to the point where I use my voice for controlling TV. Guess I’m not the target audience for that product.

  17. Any news on an Amazon Echo skill for voice control? Seems easier than having to buy a new remote and possibly cheaper. I got an Echo Dot for $35 and I don’t really use it for much of anything. This would at least provide some good use for it. I can’t imagine it’s any more difficult to do once the voice commands are all set up.

  18. “I had missed the news of Margret leaving TiVo, but after reading Chucky’s comment, found and read Dave’s thread on TCF. That sucks”

    Yup. I’m not 100% sure of what her job responsibilities were, but I think the software UX development side of TiVo was top notch under her reign, and I think we’ll all miss her over time. (Hardware far less so, but I don’t know if that was part of her gig.)

    “As for Hydra, thanks, but no thanks. Unless they have completely overhauled it from what we had previously seen, I will be avoiding it like grim death.”

    “Grim death” is an dramatic understatement. From what we’ve seen of Hydra so far, we’re dealing with avoiding one of Dante’s lower circles of Hell…

  19. Chucky, an industry source had indicated the Netflix button is now a requirement and how the Element Fire Television ended up with one. However, the new Apple TV doesn’t have and neither does the new 4K Fire TV dongle, so it may be a shifting requirement or as you say, a former requirement, or negotiable based on company sway. In any event, with a partially customizable home screen and the voice remote, it wouldn’t really help me much. Not that I watch Netflix and TiVo and I imagine if and when you partake it’s via OnePass.

    By the by, the folks I know using Hydra seem to think it’s pretty decent at this point and wouldn’t revert. But the change will be harder for some of us. My wife’s only known one television interface for the last 15 years…

    Bricketh, using a voice remote for transport controls is dumb. But being able to ‘turn to CNN’ or ‘launch Hulu’ with a single button click is extremely efficient and something I’m looking for. If I used my TiVo much these days, anyway. I’m more often streaming from a Fire TV or Roku.

  20. Again, I’m old school with my TV, to a certain extent. I watch Netflix and Amazon streaming content, but I still find just kicking back with a series of reruns on live TV (when not watching recorded content or streaming something specific) to be my go-to, even though I could binge watch some of those same shows (commercial free) via a streaming service. I’m not indecisive, but sometimes I just want to see what’s on TV rather than having to pick from an ever-growing list of options, unless I’m in the mood for something specific. The last couple of nights, I streamed Jaws 1 and 2 because my middle daughter had never seen them and was facinated. Otherwise, I would have been watching Seinfeld or BBT reruns, or maybe SNF. The younger generation, such as my oldest daughter, watch less TV and more videos from various apps (YouTube being one, but not the primary source for her).

    I know it is diametrically different for that generation than it is for mine, and the divide will continue to grow until everything is eventually presented in an a’la carte app format. I just have not made it over that hurdle where I could “cut the cord”, and pick everything I want to watch day in and day out.

  21. “Chucky, an industry source had indicated the Netflix button is now a requirement and how the Element Fire Television ended up with one. However, the new Apple TV doesn’t have and neither does the new 4K Fire TV dongle, so it may be a shifting requirement or as you say, a former requirement, or negotiable based on company sway.”

    Yeah. That all makes good sense. I can certainly imagine Netflix forcing a new, low-volume product to Use The Button™. But the Apple and Amazon examples are part of why it can’t be a standard mandatory thing. In Roku’s case, for example, I very strongly assume it’s about payment, not mandates. And my weaker guess in TiVo’s case is that it’s the same deal as Roku’s, just cuz the client is already there.

    (FWIW, I finally got fed up enough with Netflix’s catalog to cancel a while ago, and we’ve only re-upped for two individual months to watch specific content. Reallocated the money to Amazon a-la-carte and FilmStruck, and we’ve been been happy with the decision.)

    “By the by, the folks I know using Hydra seem to think it’s pretty decent at this point and wouldn’t revert.”

    Of course folks who were willing to sign up in the first place are a skewed sample.

    But who knows? I’m just going on the few YouTube videos I’ve seen, and from that, it seems like a total horror show based on how I use the TiVo. My UX is pleasantly centered around the “My Shows” interface, and Hydra seems to drastically reduce it’s ease of use. Best I can tell so far, Hydra just isn’t designed with the lean-back DVR experience in mind.

    But, again, who knows without actually trying it? And unless the inability to revert turns out to be false, I can’t imagine actually trying it.

    “But the change will be harder for some of us. My wife’s only known one television interface for the last 15 years…”

    I’ve got nothing against “new”, or change that improves the UX. But that’s not my impression of Hydra so far…

  22. Do you know if the existing TiVo minis will support the voice remote?

  23. Yup. I’m not 100% sure of what her job responsibilities were, but I think the software UX development side of TiVo was top notch under her reign, and I think we’ll all miss her over time.
    Chucky, Margret’s jobs at TiVo were Chief Design Officer and Vice President of Product Development. http://margretschmidt.com/Home/Margret_Schmidt_Chief_Design_Officer.html

    Any news on an Amazon Echo skill for voice control? Seems easier than having to buy a new remote and possibly cheaper. I got an Echo Dot for $35 and I don’t really use it for much of anything. This would at least provide some good use for it. I can’t imagine it’s any more difficult to do once the voice commands are all set up.
    Daniel, I’d much rather see if TiVo wants to add Google Home support.

    I hope they add the voice capability to the software remote in the TiVo app much like Apple and Amazon have done with their apps.
    Aaron, I’d much rather see the TiVo app gain Google Casting capability so we can watch content on a Chromecast instead of having to purchase a TiVo Mini.

    Looks like Netflix did their usual job of bullying their way onto the remote. I guess that’s a requirement when it comes to having their product offering on your box.
    I sure the hell wish they would make backlit remotes standard already.

    FussyPister, I’m surprised they haven’t gotten to Comcast and their X1 remotes since the X1 has Netflix as an app.

  24. I’m beta testing Hydra and the voice remote. Works well. UI is a little less than perfectly smooth but I have no issues with it

  25. I’m beta testing Hydra

    The first rule of Beta Club is…

  26. Netflix has over 100 millions subscribers now. Why is it a surprise that the largest streaming operator has a dedicated button?

    Is there is word on what the price might be for the voice remote. I would like to pick up at least two of them when available. Although I can’t see replacing all seven of my Slide Pro remotes,

  27. “Of course folks who were willing to sign up in the first place are a skewed sample.”

    But their spouses weren’t… I have newer videos to upload when the time is right. Your workflow will change, but feedback has been incorporated into areas you care about. That’s not to say you’ll like it (or that my I or my wife will), but it’s somewhat improved.

  28. “But their spouses weren’t… I have newer videos to upload when the time is right. Your workflow will change, but feedback has been incorporated into areas you care about. That’s not to say you’ll like it (or that my I or my wife will), but it’s somewhat improved.”

    Not too surprising, in retrospect. The videos I’ve seen make it look like such a trainwreck in terms of DVR usability that the fact that they had to improve it somewhat now seems inevitable. Otherwise, they’d be killing their business. (Also, when you start in the sub-basement, there is no direction but up.)

    But as long as it remains optional, my feelings toward it are irrelevant, since skipping the voice remote is tiny price to pay to avoid Hydra.

  29. “Netflix has over 100 millions subscribers now. Why is it a surprise that the largest streaming operator has a dedicated button?”

    Yeah. I also assume that Netflix’s popularity is a core part what’s behind the button appearing on various platforms. I’m sure Netflix uses lots of carrots and a few sticks to help things along, but none of that would work if Netflix weren’t so popular.

    However, it is worth noting that 100M number is worldwide. Netflix has only 50M subscribers in the US. Compare and contrast to Amazon Prime, which has 80M subscribers in the US, spends almost as much as Netflix on content, and yet doesn’t seem to have a button promotion program given that it doesn’t get placement anywhere…

  30. Amazon Prmie subscribers aren’t only getting video content, however, so that number is somewhat skewed. I have Prime, and I may watch something on it once every 6 months, if that (and none of that is their original programming). My brother also has it, and he doesn’t watch shows — we have it mainly for the shipping benefits, and I treat it like having a Costco or Sam’s Club membership.

    I know plenty of people who were Prime members before they started bundling streaming video with the service (of course, it was a bit cheaper then). I’m sure there are a lot of subscribers that use Prime for video streaming, and wouldn’t pay the amount that they do if not for that capability, but Netflix streaming subs are there for only that one purpose. Which is more impressive or meaningful is open for debate.

    Also, remember that Amazon is spending quite a bit to stream NFL TNF games this year, which began last week. While I doubt many are subscribing for that reason, that is a big chunk of $$ they are throwing around. Maybe that doesn’t factor into their spend for original programming, but it certainly does for how much they are feeding into that arm of their service.

  31. That is 80 million Amazon Prime subscribers for shipping. A much, much smaller percentage actually use Prime for streaming.

  32. > Go to a TiVo menu screen: “Take me home,” or “Show me the Guide.”

    I can’t fathom someone actually pushing a button and speaking these commands when they could simply press a different button to achieve the same thing.

  33. “Amazon Prmie subscribers aren’t only getting video content, however, so that number is somewhat skewed.”

    “That is 80 million Amazon Prime subscribers for shipping. A much, much smaller percentage actually use Prime for streaming.”

    No doubt. I’m certainly not trying to make a case that Prime streaming is more popular than Netflix. But although few Prime subscribers are doing so purely for video, the fact that it has such overwhelming market penetration means that a majority of US households viewing streaming content have access to Prime video.

    But my bigger point is that the Netflix Use The Button™ phenomenon, while made possible in the first place by Netflix’s popularity, owes more to Netflix’s willingness to aggressive bribe platforms into using the button, (and to a lesser degree, their willingness to play hardball with minor platforms.)

    For one example, if you look at US streaming internet traffic figures for 2016, which is the last data I found in a quick search, we find #1 Netflix, #2 YouTube, #3 Amazon. But then look at the Roku remote. YouTube and Amazon are missing, while Hulu, HBO Now, and Sling get placement. If you add up the traffic for all three of those, it’s less than #3 Amazon, let alone #2 YouTube.

    In short, I think button placement on remotes has more to do with the size of the bribes the streaming companies are offering, rather than actual customer demand or usage. While Netflix has the most traffic, it almost definitely also has the most lucrative bribe program, so that’s why it’s the one button on the TiVo remote. The reason you don’t see Amazon buttons on remotes has to do with Amazon not playing the bribe game, for whatever tactical reason. Same goes for YouTube buttons.

  34. Yeah, Roku blazed a trail is pimping prime remote real estate. Sometimes cash, sometimes other I’m guessing. They have featured a YouTube button, although the app isn’t very good, along with Google Play. Can’t remember if either was limited to Canada, tho. Hm.

  35. A lot of TVs also have the Netflix button. Many people buy a smart TV with the expectation that it will be one that they use for at least a few years… That button serves as a powerful bit of advertising for Netflix, and certainly worth helping to shoulder a small fraction of the burden of the manufacturer’s costs by paying to have it included. Every time a user picks up their remote, even if they don’t use Netflix, they are exposed to the brand. TiVo may be a niche market, but it is still a market that has potential subs, and has the possibility of growth as they continue to try to penetrate retail. I don’t recall manufacturers having speciality buttons or other adverts on the remotes in the past, other than Dolby-type logos that may be present. I won’t say Netflix was the first, but it is seemingly the most aggressive, as I see their logo on more devices. And in the case of TiVo, what better way than this to try to sell consumers and potential future partners on the idea of TiVo than to include a simple button that is synonymous with streaming media for most.

    Amazon and Alphabet don’t need to play that game, as their revenue stream is much firmer, and less subject to the ebbs and flows of industry changes. Netflix needs that strong foothold, and having an ever-present logo staring at customers every time they look at their remote helps to maintain their place. They weren’t always the behemoth they are today, and they may one day lose traction to a fresh, new alternative; but as long as they are the big red button on the remote, it will be difficult for people to simply ignore their service. It is quite an ingenious bit of marketing, in my opinion.

  36. “Netflix needs that strong foothold, and having an ever-present logo staring at customers every time they look at their remote helps to maintain their place … as long as they are the big red button on the remote, it will be difficult for people to simply ignore their service. It is quite an ingenious bit of marketing, in my opinion.”

    Oh, no doubt. It’s incredibly savvy advertising. And the more we go around on this, the more I’m convinced they’re paying big $$$ for that real estate.

    (Design clever joke about how yesterday’s price increase was entirely to pay for button placement payments before I hit “Post Comment”. Whoops!)

  37. They could very well be paying big money, but since I *think* they were the first company to do it in such a way, they may have been able to get a lengthy contract negotiated for favorable terms back in 2010/2011, as I believe 2012 or so is when the button started appearing on remotes. The money for nothing may not have been viewed as prime real estate at the time, as they weren’t like NASCAR where every square inch of the remote was covered with various companies. I also (again, *think*) that it would be somewhat of a beneficial relationship for the manufacturers, as they get to say “look what you can do with our device”. Maybe not so much today, but probably at the time of the initial contracts.

    I agree that today it is probably more expensive for them to get it added, and TiVo is more than happy to take their cash — it helps to have other revenue streams besides just the patent lawsuits to keep them going.

  38. And ROku has different buttons if you buy it from Walmart. A Roku purchased from Walmart has a Vudu button. While a Roku purchased from Best Buy does not.

  39. Once you know where all the buttons are who looks at them anyway, the object of a good remote is you can feel your away around without looking.

  40. Which is very easy with the TiVo or Roku remote.

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