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How Google Assistant really gives operators leverage

Pierre Donath, Chief Product Officer, 3SS
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Voice control using Google Assistant has become an everyday experience for millions. Whether it’s selecting the ideal settings for lighting and heating, or choosing the evening’s music, with more and more consumers interacting vocally with smart home controls or entertainment systems, Google Assistant is becoming an essential member of many households.

Today TV service providers are beginning to take a closer look at Google Assistant and devising new ways to make voice control more powerful, functional and “smart”. And they are doing this because they recognise the potential for voice interaction to be a fundamental conduit for building a closer relationship with the pay-TV subscriber.

Com Hem was the first operator to deploy Android TV Operator Tier in a major hybrid set-top box deployment for its next generation TV service platform. Com Hem Tv Hub broke new ground in subscriber-centric utility when it launched in Spring 2018. From the beginning, Com Hem put user experience at the heart of the project.

Since then, Com Hem has seen first-hand how much subscribers value Google Assistant as part of the TV service offering. Increasingly regarding Google Assistant as a key product differentiator, Com Hem has invested in broadening the capabilities of the Google Assistant in its offering to subscribers. Other operators will follow.

Giving Assistant a bigger toolbox with voice

The traditional UI will be around for many years to come, to navigate and browse, to trigger an action, and to find a programme. But the User Experience (UX) is transforming and voice offers a whole new way of interacting with the TV.

Voice commands can dramatically reduce the time required for the system to execute specific tasks.

With a traditional search, the user needs to interact with the remote control, and review multiple search menus before a particular item of content is selected. Voice control, on the other hand, accelerates search, enabling skipping of these manual steps, with the viewer interacting with the service in a more natural way. It’s this simple; if you know what you want, talking is faster.

Consumers get it, and are increasingly expecting to use voice control for more of their in-home services. But it is possible to take voice activation even further, to help TV service providers differentiate from “standard” Google Assistant integration, while deepening the interaction and relationship between the service provider and the subscriber.

Leveraging software innovations today, service platforms can be engineered to give Google Assistant extra tools including transformative new search capabilities.

Software can deepen standard Google Assistant integration, enriching its usability.

Operators can now create their own bespoke value-adding sets of commands to trigger a diversity of actions in the app which the viewer might like to do – from customer support-related actions like billing queries to PVR instructions and management of advanced parental controls. This encourages subscriber loyalty through deeper engagement with the service using voice technology.

Up in the cloud

Operators who deploy Android TV platforms can be among the first to offer the next Google Assistant features to their customers, while being in control of search results.

On-Device is the traditional Assistant integration in the Operator Tier programme: Metadata displayed in Google Assistant search results originates from Google, but the operator can only push one watch action for results, and it’s shown right next to third-party content.

But cloud-to-cloud integration broadens the possibilities for Google Assistant, and can make interacting with Google Assistant far more immersive. Deep integration empowers operators to seamlessly manage and personalise results that not only trigger actions on the device but enable a variety of new possibilities for voice usage.

For PVR e.g. if a subscriber is watching Wonder Woman and says “Record this”, the context of what the user is watching can additionally be transmitted so that the action of recording the specific movie Wonder Woman is triggered and played back via Google Assistant to the operator’s app. The new possibilities for Assistant actions can be a major differentiating benefit for operators.

Another innovative use case which would appeal to subscribers is a “continue my show” command. With this function, if the user comes home after a long day at work and simply talks to Google Assistant from his or her Android phone or tablet, or any other Assistant-enabled device, and says “continue my show”, viewing can carry on where s/he left off. At the same time, the lights will dim, the Android TV box will start up with the custom launcher and the desired episode will start to play – all just by using voice.

Furthermore, the operator can control more watch actions for Assistant results, not just one. (e.g. Watch, Rent, Subscribe, Save for later, Record, More Info, among others).

Front end technology today can enable additional key operator benefits. A platform can be designed so that third-party search results are presented only after an additional user action; therefore, the search results page can be designed to contain only the operator’s ‘owned’ choices. Additional “badges” can be pushed alongside metadata to inform the user that the found content is included in his/her package or is already playing, and this all can be carried out seamlessly, in harmony with the custom launcher experience and amid the branding of the operator.

More Assistant utility to come with AI and ML

With the boom in AI technology, the pace of innovation in this field is destined to surge. AI and Machine Learning are driving a world of new technologies that are revolutionary for both service providers and their subscribers, for example, AI-powered solutions which enable the user to search within content, frame by frame, for anything on a particular subject. A football supporter, for one, may want to browse all content sources for interviews and other content about his or her favourite player or team, bundling all these clips to build a personal watch list.

But we are only at the beginning of the AI era. There is much more to come.

Meanwhile, Google Assistant is set to evolve to be an even better ‘learner’ as voice technology progresses, and AI and ML keep pushing the envelope and further deepening viewer engagement.

Users will increasingly consider voice control to be a reliable, highly valuable tool, and they will interact with their next generation TV service more regularly and truly begin to consider it a bona fide “Assistant”. When Assistant usage grows, the user starts to have a deeper, longer conversation with the service. Loyalty is promoted and marketing opportunities wait to be uncovered.

Through smart use of Google Assistant, based on our understanding of its growing value in the subscriber-operator relationship, service providers can further differentiate their offerings, enhancing customer satisfaction by offering new capabilities, better discoverability, and ultimately maximising business potential.

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