Bryan Kissinger reveals how Comcast's Xfinity Home functionality is getting integrated into their new voice activation system
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Press Release from Comcast and Bryan Kissinger.
If you are a Comcast Xfinity customer, you might already know this but if you are not, let us fill you in. Comcast's Xfinity has a voice activation system called X1 Voice which was first introduced in 2015. You can use the X1 voice system with your Xfinity remote. Now you can use this system for not only telling your TV what to do but to control smart home devices. As more consumers start to integrate these new smart devices in their home, Comcast's digital home engineering team set a course to discover how it could leverage their voice technology built for television to deliver innovative connected home experiences.
Last month we announced a bunch of powerful new voice commands for home automation and security. Using these commands, customers can turn up the heat by simply saying "Xfinity Home, I'm cold"; ask the remote to show the feed from a specific camera in their home; or even change the colors of their smart lights.
The things we love about the voice remote in a connected-home setting are very similar to the factors that make it such an awesome way to watch television. Voice doesn't just replace button presses. As our products become ever more feature-rich and capable, voice prevents them from becoming too complex by flattening the user interface in ways that are intuitive and profound.
Today those experiences are seamlessly available to our connected home customers but getting to that point required a good deal of work by our engineering teams behind the scenes to create new experiences without harming those already in place.
We started creating connected home commands in 2016 with a couple of relatively simple utterances. Customers could say "Xfinity Home, Arm" or "Xfinity Home, disarm" to arm or disarm their home security systems. Even that step required some new approaches.
First, we added a "guard word" for connected Home commands. By advising customers to say, "Xfinity Home" before their command ("disarm"), we could ensure that our voice control platform didn't go looking for a movie or a song called "disarm". Adding a guard word opened a lot of possibilities, but we still didn't have a way to support more complex functions.
To accelerate that process, we created a dedicated voice team, focused entirely on building voice integrations for connected home commands. The voice team works closely with the Xfinity Home apps team, ensuring that new features and tools are always considered within the context of voice control.
The newly formed voice team built our Voice Action Processing Service (VAPS), which processes commands that come from Comcast's homegrown Natural Language Processing agent and determines which other services and API's to call. An example of this would be launching the app for viewing a camera feed.
With that platform in place, we began to expand our connected home voice capabilities. This included adding direct commands for lights and thermostats using Xfinity Home's ZigBee Radio. When we made that update, customers could say "Xfinity Home, all lights off" or "Xfinity Home, set the bedroom thermostat to 72 degrees.
From there, we worked closely with our Applied Artificial Intelligence team to develop the capacity for more natural commands. Now saying "Xfinity Home, I'm hot" will trigger the system to drop the thermostat by a couple degrees, while saying "Xfinity Home, make it brighter" will raise the dim level of connected lights.
In talking with Comcast, they mentioned this integration is a work in progress, and new-found territory for them. The market is constantly changing, and new devices are coming to market faster than ever. Their digital home engineering team is committed to determining the best ways to adapt voice controls to these devices and home automation features. We look forward to seeing and hearing about these new integrations in the coming months. We are sure they will be unique and effective for today's smart homeowners. (Shiv Dhondiyal co-authored this post)
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