When you’re searching for a movie to watch, a remote control isn’t the quickest way to go.
Mostly it involves using the number keypad and pressing keys repeatedly to invoke the letter you want. It’s a lot of presses.
When the latest version of Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV set-top boxes arrived, they came with remote controls equipped with microphones. Press a button and you could say “The Lord of the Rings” – which is much quicker than typing it – for the box to find the movies you’re after.
The latest box from Sky, Sky Q, teasingly came with a remote equipped with a microphone button when it launched more than a year ago. It was useless, until now.
Pressing and holding the edge-mounted button now launches a dictation feature. As you press it, wherever you are in the system, the image on screen shrinks to a picture-in picture and the main display is given over to an image of the microphone and, as you speak, the words it hears.
I’ve been trying it out and it’s pretty sophisticated.
Of course, you can say “Mission Impossible” or “films with Tom Cruise” but it’ll also take more complicated queries such as “movies with Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger” as well as “What’s on Sky Atlantic this evening?” to see upcoming programmes.
And then there are the Easter eggs, the hidden extras which are always a delight when you discover them.
So if you come up with certain cinema quotes, it’ll know what you’re talking about. Say, “You had me at hello” and the screen for Jerry Maguire will duly appear. Or try “Houston, we have a problem” or “I’ll have what she’s having” and you’ll be led to Apollo 13 and When Harry Met Sally respectively.
In practice, it works extremely well, though it needs a broadband connection to be able to turn speech into text. When I tested it, it was nearly always flawless but just occasionally it would tell me there was no connection.
And if, like me, you find the touchpad remote mostly brilliant but occasionally maddening, tough, you have to use the touch remote for voice interaction.
The software is being rolled out slowly, so don’t be disappointed if you find you can't use it yet.
When it arrives it brings with it a new home page, Sky Q, which is a slightly tweaked version of what was there before, guiding you to recently watched shows and films.
It’s a skilful upgrade to an already enjoyable interface, which works well and is certainly fun to use.