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Panasonic TVs will be good listeners

Nuance Communications announced that its voice control technology will be available on Panasonic televisions in Europe.


Soon LG and Samsung won't be the only TV makers to offer the ability to control your TV by talking to it.

Yesterday Nuance Communications announced that its Dragon TV voice control platform would be shipping with some Panasonic TVs in Europe this year.

Plans for a US introduction were not announced, and a Panasonic representative I spoke to didn't have any additional details. I don't expect the company to incorporate voice control into its already-announced 2012 TVs, via some kind add-on USB microphone for example, but it is a possibility. I'd be surprised if 2013 Panasonic TVs didn't offer the feature, however.

Nuance introduced Dragon TV at CES in January, pitching voice as an easy way to access the broad array of content available today. Of course many of the examples the company cites, like asking your TV "What's on Bravo at 9 p.m. tonight?" or telling it "Watch Dexter on DVR," are beyond the capabilities of any current TV--you'd need a way to control your cable box/DVR to have them work properly.

That's one reason why Samsung built cable box control into the voice-enabled TVs it introduced at CES in January. LG also offers voice control (powered by Dragon TV) in select 2012 models, although it doesn't provide for cable box control.

Even without a way to integrate a cable box, voice control on a TV is still potentially useful for searching Netflix or other apps, maintaining control when you lose the remote in the couch cushions, or calling someone via a built-in Skype speakerphone, for example.

The key in my book is making it work well.Microsoft's Bing Video search for Xbox, for example, is promising but still imperfect, with awkward prompts and little support for natural language. There's plenty of opportunity in the nascent field of talking to gadgets for a company like Nuance--not to mention Apple or Google--to find a compelling voice.