LG's next gen TVs get remote with natural language recognition

Vendors are making an effort to keep users loyal to their remote controls, rather than switching to using mobile phones

Armed with a new remote control, owners of LG Electronics' Cinema 3D Smart TVs will be able to channel-surf simply by speaking.

LG's redesigned Magic Remote comes with enhanced language recognition capabilities. New natural language recognition software allows users to talk in a more conversational manner, using expressions such as "Show me Gangnam Style video," the company said on Wednesday.

The software has been developed in-house, and the processing is done on the TV; the remote will only work with LG's 2013 TV line-up, a spokeswoman said.

In addition to voice, consumers can also use gestures, a wheel and a point feature to control their TV. The latter allows users to point directly at an icon on the screen, instead of using buttons to navigate.

The wheel lets users scroll on websites or zoom in and out when using applications such as Google Maps; the gesture feature allows users to switch a channel by writing the number in the air, according to LG.

To what extent users will take these features to heart remains to be seen, but the reason TV vendors, including Samsung and LG, are putting so much effort into the remote is to keep consumers from starting to use their smartphone to control the TV, according to Marie Nilsson, CEO at market research company Mediavision.

"Under the threat of someone else taking over the remote, and in the process getting more influence over the user, TV vendors are trying to get their act together," Nilsson said.

LG's remote comes in two variants. A premium Magic Remote features LED back-lit buttons for easy operation in the dark and also sports a more compact design compared to the regular version.

The remotes will be on display at the International CES, which takes place between Jan. 8 and Jan. 11 in Las Vegas.

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