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EE puts Alexa in its box

EE TV

UK operator EE has laid claim to being the first UK set-top box provider to support Alexa voice control.

Shouting at the telly used to be the futile act of the frustrated viewer but that’s set to change for those who subscribe to EE TV. Now abusing politicians or encouraging athletes could take on a whole new dimension as Alexa’s artificial intelligence seeks to fulfil what were previously harmless rhetorical queries.

Not really. EE’s big news is that its STB is offering a ‘skill’ for Alexa. This means smart speakers like the Amazon Echo are now empowered to interact with the EE STB in response to spoken queries such as “Alexa, ask EE TV what’s on tonight?” It will then serve up three choices and further voice commands can ask it to record one of them.

said: “We’re continually looking for ways to further enhance the accessibility and usability of EE TV – so we’re pleased to work with Amazon to launch the first Alexa skill on a set top box in the UK,” said Max Taylor, Marketing MD at EE. “The new skill will allow users to discover new content and help to enrich their TV experience, so they can make the most out of it.”

“Alexa integration with EE TV creates a truly hands-free TV experience,” said Fabrice Rousseau, GM of Alexa Skills Kit EU. “Customers can now ask Alexa to find things to watch and record the shows they want – no remote required. This is much more natural, and an experience that will get even better in future.”

Analyst Paolo Pescatore of CCS Insight is very bullish about EE’s TV efforts. “EE continues to push the boundaries with its TV service,” he said. “Given the fragmented nature of TV services today, we believe that voice will play a pivotal role in finding the programmes consumers want to watch. More importantly the support for Amazon Alexa goes one step further than Sky Q in supporting additional voice features.

“Credit should go to its partner Netgem for further differentiating EE TV over rivals. This latest move clearly underlines the importance of software in enhancing a TV service. Undoubtedly EE TV is a great option for consumers who are looking for a good set-top-box with access to a wide range of programming including free-to-air, on demand and a la carte purchases to premium content.”

While being the first to offer this sort of thing is an achievement it’s not immediately obvious quite what the excitement is all about. Voice control does seem to be the future for the connected home but the feature set on offer right now seems very limited and smacks of a solution looking for a problem. Serving up a choice of three from the countless options available doesn’t seem like a very satisfactory user experience but then again you have to start somewhere.

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