September 16, 2021
Good morning, and welcome to Protocol Next Up. This week: Comcast is entering the smart TV business, and Google smart speakers are getting a "Walking Dead" voice experience.
Earlier this week, I broke the news that Comcast is getting ready to launch smart TVs under a new XClass TV brand. The story elicited a bunch of questions on Twitter and elsewhere, so I decided to break things down a bit.
Comcast has developed its own operating system for set-top boxes and streaming devices called X1. Last year, we broke the news that Comcast was looking to bring X1 to smart TVs.
Why would anyone want to buy a TV from Comcast? Good question, and time will tell if people actually want to. But here are some clues as to how Comcast wants to convince people of its TVs.
Is this an attempt to compete against other cable companies? Or, in other words: Why is Comcast even doing this?
Instead, Comcast is responding to a massive power shift in TV land: Cable companies long used to be the gatekeepers to the living room, complete with the ability to monetize a chunk of cable network ad slots.
And here's the kicker: Consumers happily subscribe to multiple streaming services, but they'll only have one TV in their living room. Owning that relationship is crucial, which is why LightShed analyst Rich Greenfield summed up the XClass news this way: "tvOS battle = the real #streamingwars."
AR faithful before an Apple event: "All signs say this is the big Apple Glasses announcement!"
AR faithful after: "Tantalizing clues to Apple Glasses!! The Watch has accelerometers! They used the word 'immersion' twice!!" — Disney animator Bruce Wright a year ago, but he might as well have tweeted it this week.
"This feature is gonna be amazing for user researchers! It's basically allowing a remote observation without installing any app." — Design researcher Daniel Souza with an interesting take on Apple's new SharePlay feature.
Millennials will spend more on holiday gifts this year than any other demo, according to the 2021 Holiday Report from Roku & The Harris Poll. Plus, 1/3rd have cut the cord. The takeaway: to reach millennials, you need to buy TV the way they watch TV. Download the report today.
Australia-based voice experience startup Xandra has built some of Hollywood's most ambitious smart speaker skills, including "Westworld: The Maze," which won a Grand Prix in Radio and Audio at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in 2019.
Now, Xandra is back with a new "Walking Dead" voice experience. "Walking Dead Pathways" hasn't launched yet, but Xandra CEO Zach Johnson told us a little bit about the experience during Protocol's Future of Voice event last week.
The story puts smart speaker owners into the "Walking Dead" universe, where they get to pick a team to go on a mission with, and hopefully make their way back alive to Alexandria.
Xandra also doubled down on visuals for this experience, adding custom illustrations for every single scene, to account for the growing popularity of smart displays. "It's a game that you can really immerse yourself in, literally spend hours feeling like you are in the 'Walking Dead' world," Johnson said.
Johnson was joined by Pandora Senior Product Manager Ananya Sharan and Sonos VP Joseph Dureau on The Future of Voice panel. Together, they talked about multimodal interfaces, multi-assistant environments and ways to reach the 50% of smart speaker users who never activate a voice assistant. Check out a recording of the entire session on YouTube.
Computer vision is dealing with some really hard problems these days. Think self-driving cars, AR surface tracking or hand control for VR headsets. And then there's this Roomba, forever trapped in a prison of his own making due to overzealous algorithms. Will someone please think of the robots?
Millennials engage ads in ways that aren't possible on traditional pay TV. Nearly 3/4ths pause ads to shop, and most millennials watch ad-supported streaming. To win over millennial holiday shoppers, you need to buy TV the way they watch TV. Download the Roku & Harris Poll 2021 Holiday Guide today.
Thanks for reading — see you next week!