Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) has filed patents covering a voice-activated remote control, a move that could ultimately provide speech input for the company's Google TV service.
The patent filing, discovered by Patently Apple, came Sept. 29, 2011. That was only days before Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) launched its Siri voice-based search software with the iPhone 4S. As with Apple's iPhone and iPad before it, Siri ostensibly renewed interest in a voice search market already well represented by Google.
Google has been investing heavily in speech-based technologies, offering Voice Search for Apple's iPhone and Android handsets the last few years.
In 2010, Google launched Voice Actions, a more limited approach to voice-controlled tasks than Siri. The company expanded voice search to its desktop in 2011, and is working on a voice search-based project, code-named Majel.
Voice-controlled TV is another logical input for its Google TV service, which marries channel surfing and Web surfing. Patently Apple reported that Google's new remote technology would use voice controls that leverage Google's cloud-based services.
For example, Google TV users will be able to use their Android phone or tablet computer as the remote to search for information about TV shows.
The smartphone or tablet could be programmed to accept voice input, then package the audio and shuttle it over the Web to a Google-operated speech-to-text server system. The smartphone app would then forward the text to the television, a set-top box or some other entertainment-oriented appliance.
With this technology employing smartphones as the primary remote control, users would be able to speak into their phone from wherever their device is connected to a mobile broadband networkto turn the TV on or off, or program it to record channels and other TV management tasks from afar.
"The provision of the query to the television may occur when the user is within a set distance of his home also (e.g., by determining with GPS functionality on the smartphone that he is within 1/4 mile of the home), and the television may be turned on automatically as he approaches the home, with the television tuned to a channel that is determined to be most relevant to the query," according to the patent filing.
One of Google's illustrations for its patent shows how data may be submitted by an Android phone to a Google TV system.
This revelation isn't particularly surprising in light of the fact that Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt alluded to such location-centric cloud computing tasks when he spoke at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show last month.
Schmidt explained that a user with an Android phone can come into their house, and the phone alerts the TV the user has arrived. He said Google TV is an example of "more devices in the home talking to each other."
Moreover, after Microsoft launched Kinect voice control for its Xbox 360 gaming and TV streaming platform last December, it was widely assumed Google would accelerate its efforts to bring voice search to Google TV.
More than once, a Google spokesperson has indicated that voice search would be a logical input option for Google TV. Of course, Google has more than Microsoft to worry about. Apple is reportedly adapting Siri for its revised Apple television product, and Samsung has developed a remote control that leverages a voice-recognition function and a touch pad for a smart TV it will release this year.
Patently Apple's discovery of the Google voice search patents comes a few days after the blog discovered that Google is working on ways to let users unlock their phones with their voices.