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Will HAL invade your living room?

Controlling a TV set is easy. Just push the appropriate button.

Not good enough say TV set makers and others. We want you to instead use your cell phone, tablet and now your voice.

According to the January Consumer Electronics Show (CES) exhibits television set makers and other vendors are about to actually enable viewers to really talk to their TV sets. Several companies have recently demonstrated new TV remote controls that empower viewers with voice control over their TV sets. Just before CES, LG demonstrated their Cinema 3D smart TV with voice control, called Magic Remote. The company claims the device enables a wide range of television set control functions via voice. At CES, Samsung announced voice control for some models of their TV sets too.

But Samsung and LG aren’t the only vendors looking to bring voice control to your television set. Just six days before Apple released iCloud and Siri, behemoth Google filed a patent application for their “Google TV” remote and application. According to patent materials, the new remote, “will use voice controls associated with Google’s own cloud services.” The device will allow viewers with Android phones to control their TV sets. The web site Patently Apple suggests that Samsung’s voice remote may actually be an early implementation of the Google technology.

The site’s documents describe the Google application in some detail. In addition to voice control over standard functions like channel change and volume, the Google device would enable a wide range of options. Viewers could remotely direct their TV to turn on and find a program by name.

With location-based devices like cell phones, once you near your house, the phone could tell the TV set to turn on and find the program “Happy Days”. The patent application also discusses creating music play lists and similarly controlling them by remote. By the time you enter the house, the TV set is on and tuned to your favorite channel. If the show is not available, the Google computer would program your PVR to record the show.

As proposed, Google would use the cloud for storage, translation and transmission back to the TV set. Of course, the overall system could connect to all devices owned by a viewer, passing the proper metadata between the Google cloud sever and local devices.

I’ve always felt that such an audio-controlled TV device wouldn’t work because of background noise. Google has thought of that and the door for commands remains closed until the viewer speaks a “trigger” word. After the trigger, the control link opens and awaits a voice command.

Finally, many of us have heard the rumor that Apple is coming out with an Apple TV, now presumably powered by a voice-activated Siri-based TV remote. Keep in mind that’s still a rumor.

While I’m a fan of technology, computers can enable a whole new range of issues. I mention that from personal experience. My 15-year old son, Jeremy, once reprogrammed my VOD channel password. I couldn’t watch VOD movies until I called the cable company for a reset. Somehow he had figured out how to change the password on his own.

All this predicted new voice control stuff reminds me of the movie, “2001”. The story revolves about a spaceship, Discovery One, which is entirely controlled by a new, really smart, human-like talking computer named HAL. In an interview HAL with the BBC network, HAL declares itself “foolproof and incapable of error”.

Even so, one of the astronauts, Dr David Bowman, becomes convinced that HAL is defective and even responsible for the deaths of fellow crewmembers. Bowman then decides to deactivate HAL and heads to the door leading to the computer room. “Open the door HAL,” Bowman says.

HAL replies, “I’m sorry Dave, I can’t do that.”

Could happen.