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Comcast launched a new remote for its Xfinity X1 cable box today, with a dedicated voice button and an embedded microphone that lets users speak commands to find and control content.

The approach is similar to the dedicated mic button heavily promoted by Amazon for its Fire TV streaming box. Comcast touted the natural-language capabilities of the remote, including the ability to give general commands like “Show me kids movies,” and ask questions like “When do the Phillies play?” (their example, being headquartered in Philadelphia).

The remote will be available to new and existing X1 customers, free of charge.

During a demo today at the Internet and TV Expo in Chicago, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts used the remote for some gallows humor about the failed Comcast-Time Warner merger.  From The Hollywood Reporter:

He ended the demo with a joke, telling the remote to “show me the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger.” The screen then showed a scene from a Vin Diesel film, which seemed to be one of theFast & Furious movies, with a package outside a house exploding. “That pretty much sums it up,” Roberts said. “So we really are moving on.”

Comcast says the remote records sound when the mic button is pressed and then uses voice-over-RF4CE ZigBee technology to compress and transmit the recording to the X1 platform. It leverages natural language processing and algorithms that scan metadata and determine relevancy.


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