TiVo's about to find its voice.
A new version of the venerable DVR unveiled today (Oct. 24) adds a voice-powered remote control. Dubbed TiVo Bolt Vox, the updated DVR starts at $199 for the 500GB version. TiVo also added voice controls to the $179 TiVo Mini Vox, which adds DVR functionality to TVs in other rooms and now supports 4K programs.
It's the voice capabilities that really make this edition of TiVo stand out, though, as it brings a sorely needed feature to TiVo experience. Voice controls are finding their way onto more set-top boxes, and TiVo hopes the new functionality will convince TV watchers to turn to its DVR rather than the one your cable provider will be happy to rent you.
You won't use your voice to control playback, but that's largely because the controls for pausing, advancing and rewinding recorded shows are already there on the TiVo Vox Remote, next to the blue button with the microphone icon you use to trigger voice commands. Instead, TiVo put the focus on using your voice to simplify searches and navigation. You can use voice commands to skip commercials, for example — saying "skip it" will let you jump over entire commercial breaks on recordings — or manage OnePass subscriptions for recording specific shows.
TiVo seems most proud of the way you can find out what's available using your voice, refining your searches with follow-up criteria. Press the microphone button on the remote and ask TiVo Bolt Vox to display upcoming adventure movies, and the DVR will dutifully comply. You can then narrow down searches by asking to see movies "only from Bruce Willis," refining things further by stipulating "and only from the 1990s." You can also narrow down searches by reciting particularly famous lines from movies. The feature reminded me of how Apple's Siri can handle searches on the Apple TV, only here, it's extended to all the channels and streaming services available through TiVo.
The voice service "will get better on a regular basis," Ted Malone, TiVo's vice president of consumer products and services told me while demoing the TiVo Bolt Vox. "It will literally improve on a daily and weekly basis."
Other enhancements to the TiVo Bolt Vox include improved show recommendations via SmartBar, which predicts what you'll like based on what you've viewed before, and a QuickView feature displaying shows playing on different tuners. The 500GB and 1TB models have four integrated tuners while the $499 3TB version of TiVo Bolt Vox has six tuners and only works with digital cable systems. In addition to the TiVo hardware, you'll also have to pay for service, which runs $14.95 a month, $149 annual, or $4549 if you opt for lifetime service for as long as you use the Bolt Vox.
If you already own a TiVo Bolt, TiVo Roamio or TiVo Mini and don't feel like upgrading to the newest version, you can still add voice capabilities to your existing DVR setup. TiVo plans to sell the TiVo Vox Remote separately for $39.99. Roamio users will pay $44.99 for an all-black version that includes a separate Bluetooth dongle.
As for the TiVo Mini Vox, you can now watch 4K programming on TVs in other rooms of your house, thanks to improvements to TiVo's offering for multi-TV households. TiVo sped up the processor in the Mini, too, and added the same voice controls you'll find on the Bolt Vox.
All three products — the Bolt Vox, the Mini Vox and the remote — go on sale October 29 at TiVo.com and through Amazon and Best Buy.
Image Credits: TiVo