Technology

Alexa, turn up the volume! Toshiba unveils TV sets that can be controlled using Amazon’s AI voice assistant

Changing the channel on your television with only a spoken command will soon be possible for the owners of a new range of Toshiba televisions.

Starting in 2019, the Japanese firm’s OLED, 4K HDR, and Full HD Smart TV products will boast access to Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant.

Viewers will be able to request channel changes, volume increases and decreases and more by starting their spoken command with ‘Alexa’.

This signals to the always-listening voice assistant that you are about to issue an instruction, which is recorded and parsed in the cloud by Amazon.

Toshiba sets will have access to all 45,000 skills already available for Alexa, allowing television viewers to control smart lightbulbs, buy items from Amazon, order takeaways, and check the latest news and weather updates.

These capabilities are also available on other Alexa-enabled devices, including the Amazon Echo.

Toshiba also confirmed it would support Google’s rival AI assistant, known as Google Assistant, in a forthcoming Android-powered television display.

Toshiba says its Android TV is likely to hit the market in May or June next year, costing around £399, with Alexa-enabled sets expected at the same price point.

Tokyo-based firm Toshiba made the announcement during the annual IFA technology tradeshow, which is held in Berlin from August 31 to September 5.

Instead of relying on an Amazon Echo, or a voice-activated remote control, Alexa-enabled models will pick up requests using far-field microphones that cut out background noise to hear the spoken command.

The TV’s remote will also provide one-click access to Netflix.

A customisable ‘scroll as you view’ menu allows viewers to browse through other video on-demand services from the side of the screen — without leaving what they are watching.

‘This forthcoming launch is extremely important, enabling us to offer an “out of the box” home entertainment experience that’s intuitive and ultra-convenient,’ said Bart Kuijten, Toshiba’s European sales and marketing director, of the Alexa-enabled TVs.

‘The fundamental appeal of TV has always been its unique capacity to work as an entertainment hub in its own right.

‘So, for us, it makes absolute sense to build on this with an integrated cutting-edge smart feature that can ensure more support and ease of control.’

For fans of the Google-designed Android operating system, more commonly found on smartphones and tablets, the planned launch of a 55-inch model that runs on the system will come as welcome news.

Users will also be able to use more than 45,000 skills available for the AI software, direct from Amazon and from partner companies

With Google Assistant built-in, viewers can search for content, stream services and control their smart devices by using their voice.

Unlike the models with Alexa, owners of the Android version will have to click a designed button on the remote control to talk to the television.

This will then let them search for movies, check the weather forecast and even dim the living room lights – all without having to break from what they are watching.

Google Assistant can also be used to turn up the volume, pause and turn off the TV.

Toshiba says its Android TV is likely to hit the market in May or June next year, costing around £399, with new Alexa enabled sets expected to sell at the same price point

If Google’s Assistant is more your thing, the company’s first ever Android powered screen could be more to your liking. It will offer a similar range of options through the search firm’s rival smart software, running on its own Android operating system

Using Google’s AI capabilities, the television will even begin to offer viewing recommendations based on what you’ve watched and downloaded on the set.

It also has Chromecast functionality built-in, allowing users to beam content from their smartphone or tablet to the screen using the Cast button in supported apps.

Speaking about the upcoming Android powered TV, Mr Kuijten told MailOnline: ‘For us, it not only promises to bring TV back to the forefront of home entertainment, but also, to the centre of every smart home experience.

‘Designed to suit individual viewing habits and household routines, our Android model empowers viewers.

‘As well as enabling them to connect to a whole host of other smart devices, it ensures that they can enjoy all the content and services they want, exactly how and when they want them.’

BATTLE OF THE HOME AI: HOW DO GOOGLE AND AMAZON’S SPEAKERS COMPARE?

Google’s $130 (£105) Home speaker is triggered by the phrase ‘Hey Google’ while Amazon’s Echo uses ‘Alexa’.

Amazon’s smart speaker is available in two versions – the full sized $180 (£145) Echo shown here, and a smaller, $50 (£40) version called the Echo Dot.

Amazon Echo relies on Microsoft’s Bing search engine and Wikipedia, while Google Home uses the company’s own Google Search.

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