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CES: Apple's Siri prompts competitors to push their own voice controls


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Though Apple is not present at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, the company's influence is felt on many of the products there, particularly with respect to new voice control functionality found in smartphones and televisions.

Apple's Siri personal assistant feature found in the iPhone 4S sent competitors scrambling to unveil new voice control features at CES this week, according to Reuters. Spurred by consumer interest in Siri, electronics companies are making voice control an integral feature of computers, smartphones, and even television sets.

The consensus is competing voice control technology demonstrated at CES does not yet outperform Apple's Siri, but the expectation is companies will continue to invest in the technology and result in great improvements in the years to come. Nuance, which licenses its voice recognition technology to Apple for Siri, said competing smartphones with improved speech technology will arrive in the fall of 2012, or one year after Apple launched the iPhone 4S.

While voice control in smartphones is not new, one less common use of voice recognition is with television sets. New HDTVs coming this year from companies like Samsung and LG will feature voice control, aiming to simplify the living room experience.

And Nuance this week also announced Dragon TV, its new platform for voice-controlled television sets. With it, HDTVs could allow users to speak a task, such as "Watch 'Boardwalk Empire,'" to initiate playback.

The product unveilings come as Apple is rumored to be working on a full-fledged television set that will feature Siri, allowing users to control their TV with just their voice. Last year, it was also said that current HDTV makers were scrambling to compete with Apple's rumored television set, even though no concrete information is yet available.

The response is similar to 2010, when rumors of an Apple tablet were swirling, but the iPad had not yet been announced. At that year's CES keynote, Microsoft introduced the HP Slate running Windows 7, a device that failed to see any real success. Apple's iPad, of course, went on to define the tablet market, and still controls the lion's share of sales.

Samsung's 2012 lineup will fend off rumors of an Apple television with "smart interaction" features, allowing users to launch and use applications on their HDTV through voice control, motion control and face recognition. Apple's rival also introduced its "Smart Evolution" concept, allowing select 2012 Samsung TVs to be "reborn" each year by installing kits and upgrading their TV set, rather than buying an entirely new model.

"In this era of smart entertainment, consumers are changing the way they want to be entertained and how they choose to access this content,” said Hyun-suk Kim, executive vice president, Visual Display Business at Samsung Electronics. "Samsung is redefining what a TV can do so people can use more intuitive ways to control their entertainment experiences, maintain closer contact to people that are important to them, and easily manage and share content across multiple screens."

New 2012 television sets from LG Electronics will be powered by the LG Dual Core chipset, allowing faster loading speeds, as well as voice recognition technology built in to the new 4-mode "Magic Remote." With LG's new remote, users will be able to speak, gesture, or even point at their TV set to control it.

"LG continues to innovate in the TV space, bringing to market sleek new designs with technological advances such as 3D and Smart TV," said Tim Alessi, Director of New Product Development, Home Electronics, LG Electronics USA. "This is just the beginning of another exciting year for LG as we look to deliver new products that meet the needs of consumers’ growing appetite for theater-quality products in the home."