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Motorola: Tell your TV where to go

The set-top box maker hooks up with AgileTV to launch technology that enables viewers to navigate digital cable program menus using voice commands.

Motorola and AgileTV on Thursday unveiled technology that gives digital set-top boxes the power to respond to voice commands.

The voice-recognition technology enables people to "talk" to their TV sets via a microphone in the remote control, the companies said. Viewers can navigate through digital programming and activate on-demand services by naming shows, movies or actors.

The companies are launching AgileTV's software with Motorola's DCT2000 cable box. To receive signals from the enhanced remote, customers need to install a small receiver on their set-top device.

Set-top boxes are drawing the attention of technology companies as TV sets slowly transform into a two-way, interactive devices. Chipmakers are trying to pack more processing power into the box to make it interactive and be able to handle online content from cable and satellite. Recently, IBM said it would combine PowerPC processors and TV set-top box components into a single "system on a chip".

AgileTV said it ran a 15-month test of the voice-recognition technology with cable company USA Media, using the Motorola box. A version is also available for other cable operators.

The companies said the voice-activated set-top box could create new revenue opportunities for operators by making video-on-demand and other content easier to access.

"The USA Media subscribers that tested AgileTV's voice service gave it very high marks. It allowed them to easily find channels and programs they never knew existed," Jim Faircloth, chief operating officer of USA Media, said in a statement.

The voice-command product is capable of recognizing more than 100,000 phrases and deciphering multiple languages, according to the companies.