Voice assistant comparison – Which smart TV offers what?

The importance of so-called digital voice assistants has increased steadily in recent years. Whether Samsung, LG or Sony, but also companies like Apple and Amazon – all well-known manufacturers are known to put together their own package. And yes, this also includes the in-house development of intelligent, voice-controlled assistants and their ability to record and process voice commands. What are the advantages? What are the disadvantages of such a service in terms of data protection? We explain and provide you with an all-around overview with all the information you need.


First things first: Even if some of the aforementioned voice assistants like Siri or Cortana are not directly connected to Smart TV, you can still use them on your TV under certain conditions. Regardless of whether you already have a voice assistant on your TV or not.

Sprachassistenten
You can conveniently control voice assistants via your smartphone.

What is a voice assistant?

Before we answer that question, let’s take a brief look at the past. The artificial stuttering of computer voices, which initially sounded very choppy and unnatural, underwent a strong development process over the years. Today’s – artificially generated voices – can be made to sound happier, older or softer by issuing certain commands as required. A lot also happened in the past in terms of recognition. When IBM introduced the first speech recognition system in 1984, the technology was still in its infancy. The system could recognize just 5,000 individual words – and only in English. In the meantime, recognition has improved considerably, both qualitatively and quantitatively.

Let’s now get to the actual explanation of the whole thing. Basically, you can imagine a voice assistant as a clever helper that takes over one or the other function around the inputs on the TV. Starting with changing the channel, the volume, starting the program and searching for content. But that’s not all: today’s digital assistant can regulate your heating, turn the lights on and off, or even control the blinds on your four walls.

The whole thing is called Smart Home and goes far beyond the operation of your own TV set. In addition, a voice computer can answer questions about topics such as the weather report and the TV program, or it can record appointments and reminders for you if necessary. Depending on the operating system, you cannot use every assistant on every TV.

How do voice assistants work exactly?

The actual structure of a spoken sentence and the information it contains is checked by the speech input with the help of so-called reference patterns, which have been trained to the system beforehand and stored in an archive. You can think of this archive as a library of speech patterns. Without going into too much detail at this point, you can remember that various analysis methods are used to match your voice command.

What voice assistants are available?

The best-known voice assistants for TVs include Alexa, Bixby, Google Assistant, and LG’s ThinQ AI voice recognition, which is perhaps not quite as well-known by name. We will inform you about the exact differences of these “voice assistant systems” in the following.

Copyright: Google

Alexa

With the introduction of the Amazon Echo in 2015, an intelligent voice-controlled speaker, Alexa also found its way into the homes and apartments of many. The personal voice assistant can now be found on a wide range of devices and has now also made its way onto smart TVs.

Bixby

Copyright: Samsung

Samsung’s internal voice assistant is not only found on smartphones, tablets or in some of the brand’s refrigerators. The voice recognition software has been used on the modern TVs of the South Korean manufacturer for quite some time.

Google Assistant

Copyright: Google

As the name suggests, this communication assistant comes directly from Google. Introduced in 2016, you can currently find this service on all common operating systems of the major TV manufacturers. You only need a third-party device for devices from Samsung and its Tizen interface.

ThinQ AI

Copyright: LG

LG’s own voice assistant is part of the basic equipment of every current smart TV from LG. With its help, you can navigate from channel to channel or conveniently search for content. In addition, the artificial voice intelligence brings some smart home features, such as controlling lamps and sockets, to the agenda. However, that is only on the sidelines.

Availability of assistants by operating systems

AlexaBixbyGoogle AssistantThinQ AI
Android TV
Google TV
webOS
Tizen
My Home Screen
Is only available to you via third party device
Sprachassistenten

How can I control my TV by voice?

Alexa

If Alexa is already installed on your TV at the factory, you basically don’t need to do anything other than download the Alexa app from either Google’s Play Store or Apple’s App Store. Then simply connect your smartphone or tablet to your TV via the app and you’re done.

Bixby

Samsung’s virtual voice assistant is very easy to start. A longer press on the microphone button and a simple “Hi Bixby” is enough for the Bixby icon to appear on the TV. In addition, the LED on your Smart Remote starts blinking red. If you press the button briefly, the “Explore now” menu opens. You can enter this to get to the “Discover Bixby” window. Alternatively, you can simply call out “Hi Bixby”. Make sure that the distance between you and the Smart Remote is about 1.5 meters.

Google Assistant

On TVs equipped with Android TV, you can access Google Assistant’s voice recognition via the “Assistant” or “Microphone” button. To find out which input options are available to you, ask the question: “What can you do for me?” Now you only have to speak your wish into the microphone of the remote control. You also have the option of controlling your TV via a smartphone, just like with Alexa.

ThinQ AI

LG, on the other hand, uses the Magic Remote to control the assistant. You also hold down the microphone button and ask your question. For example: What will the weather be like or what will be on TV tonight? The assistant then finds the right answer for you online.

Voice assistants and data protection

Voice assistants have now become part of everyday life for many users. We regularly feed the virtual assistants with voice information. For the manufacturers of such systems, this initially means a huge mountain of data. At this point, it should be clear to all of us that this information could also be misused. At the latest when we consider the issue of voice recognition and wiretapping. After all, none of us wants to be monitored or even identified by our speech.

In terms of data protection, voice assistants fall under the same regulations as websites. Nevertheless, there is a chance that some of the recordings – for example, by Amazon – will be reviewed manually for the development of new functions and to improve existing ones.

Good speech recognition only works really well when the device knows its user. The diversity of a language in terms of dialect and speech patterns must first be trained to a voice assistant. You can find a corresponding reference in Amazon’s privacy policy.

Switch off voice assistant

Even though voice assistants are basically meant to help you in your everyday life, you may of course have a reason to turn off this service. To prevent your TV from spying on you, we’ll tell you how to prevent your voice recordings from being analyzed.

Disable data sharing with Google Assistant:

  1. Press the microphone button on your TV.
  2. Now say “Disable data sharing”.

Note: If you deactivate data sharing, the voice service will also no longer work. To reactivate data sharing, send a voice command to the TV. Then simply agree to the data sharing conditions again.

This is how you deactivate Bixby:

  1. Press the Start button on your Samsung remote control.
  2. Select the “Settings” option.
  3. Under the “General” menu item, select the “Bixby Voice Settings”.
  4. Via “Activate voice” you deactivate the service with “Off”.

With the ThinQ AI, this is how you proceed:

  1. Open the settings and select the menu item “General”.
  2. Under the AI service in Help and Voice Recognition settings go to the gear wheel
  3. Once there, deactivate the hands-free control of the voice

To check whether the respective voice assistant has really been deactivated, simply use the respective voice command to activate the service. For example, “Hello Bixby” for Samsung or “Ok, Google” for Google Assistant. If the device does not respond anymore, you can be sure that the deactivation has worked. If you want to make sure that no data is transferred at all, you can disconnect the TV from the Internet completely.

Upgrade to Voice Control

If you don’t have a TV with integrated voice control yet, you have a few options to enjoy the functions of a voice assistant. We will show you which ones you can use here.

Apple TV

Apple TV
Copyright: Apple

One option to get more out of your old TV is to upgrade it with Apple TV Box and Siri Remote. However, you should fulfill a few prerequisites beforehand:

  1. Your TV must have an HDMI input.
  2. A working Internet connection should be available.
  3. An Apple TV+ subscription.

Once you have overcome these hurdles, Siri, Apple’s voice assistant, is available to you. It is very easy to use. You simply say “Hey Siri” and attach your voice command directly behind it. In this way, you can control playback, call up additional information about a program, play music or control other HomeKit products such as lights, cameras or temperature.

Amazon Fire TV

Fire TV Stick
Copyright: Amazon

An inexpensive solution is the so-called Fire TV Stick from Amazon. You connect this small adapter to the USB port of your TV. You can then easily control your TV via the smartphone app.

  1. Download and open the Fire TV app for Android or iOS.
  2. Sign in for your Amazon account with which the Fire TV Stick is registered
  3. Select Fire TV Stick from available devices
  4. Enter PIN code on the TV in the Fire TV app

You have already turned your smartphone into a functioning Fire TV remote control. You also need an Amazon Prime subscription to be able to use the entire offer. The connection to the Internet is established via Wi-Fi.

Google Chromecast

If the two previous options do not appeal to you, you can use the so-called Google Chromecast for a comparatively low price. As with the Fire TV Stick and Apple TV, you connect the flat device to the TV via its HDMI input. The device is set up via the Google Home app and your smartphone.

Google Chromecast
Copyright: Amazon

Of course, you also need an Internet connection to access the content on the Chromecast. In addition, you have to choose one of four subscription models to be included. In return, the service not only offers numerous streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, and Disney+, but also Google Assistant.

Xbox Series X|S

Xbox Series X / S
Copyright: Microsoft

Although the purchase of a console is far from being the most cost-effective solution, a voice assistant is also available at this point. We are talking about Cortana, Microsoft’s internal voice assistant.

If you have a Kinect, you can use the service virtually anywhere in the room. If you do not have this hardware component, you can simply control Cortana via the microphone of your headphones. It is up to you whether you use a wired setup directly on the headphones or choose a Bluetooth version. This way, you can easily navigate through the system and access all common streaming apps or the Blu-ray player, for example. Of course, you also need a suitable TV to enjoy the content in the best possible quality.

FAQ – Frequently asked questions about voice assistants

How do voice assistants work?

A voice assistant works via a speech library that has been trained to it beforehand. As soon as you make a voice input, your assistant compares various patterns from this library with your voice command and performs the corresponding action. Over time, the assistant also learns to understand you better.

What does voice control mean for the TV?

As the name suggests, you can use voice control to control various functions of your TV. For example, you can easily change the channel, increase the volume or display the current TV guide.

Which voice controls are available?

The most popular voice controls for smart TVs include Alexa, Bixby, Google Assistant and ThinQ voice support. The inputs are either made directly on the remote’s microphone or alternatively via an app on your smartphone or tablet.

How do I set up voice control?

Note: Since the menu structure of TV devices varies among each other and voice assistants such as Alex and Google Assistant are offered across manufacturers, individual points may differ from the exact procedure on your TV.

Alexa

The setup on LG models:
  1. In the settings under Connection, select the link to Devices and Voice Control.
  2. There you select Amazon Alexa.
  3. Log in with your LG account and select your TV model.
  4. Make sure that you activate both Alexa Skills.
  5. Select the brand and model of your TV in the Alexa app.
The activation on Samsung models:
  1. Go to the Apps menu on your TV and search for SmartThings.
  2. Then install the app on your TV.
  3. In the Alexa app of your smartphone, install the SmartThings skill via the Skills and Games menu.
  4. Finally, log in with your Samsung account – as you did on the TV. Your model should now be available under “Devices” and “All devices”.
Sony models, you can activate the assistant like this:
  1. From your Sony TV’s Start menu, select the Alexa app and follow the on-screen prompts.
  2. Name your TV and then log in to your Google account and complete the process.
  3. Activate the skill in the Alexa app and link your Google account to it.
  4. Finally, select “Activate TV device” on the TV. From now on, the TV will listen to the name you gave it.

Note: The name you have given your TV is then decisive for the correct recognition of your voice command.

For Phillips models, here’s what you do:
  1. Open the Alexa app from the start menu of your TV.
  2. Then select the country and language and accept the privacy policy and terms of use.
  3. Give your TV a name and link it to your Google account. Then confirm twice with continue.
  4. Activate the Skill in the Alexa app. Now link the Google account and go to activate.
For Panasonic TVs, here’s how to do it:
  1. On your Panasonic, go to Settings, select Network, and then go to Smart Speaker Setup.
  2. Select the entries “Control the TV via the Smart Speaker” and “Turn on the TV via the Smart Speaker” one after the other.
  3. Again, you first need to activate the skill via the Alexa app and connect your Panasonic account to the app and register the TV with device ID and password.
  4. Specify the device name and language – for example, “TV” – and confirm.
  5. Log in to the device with your Panasonic account and press the Exit button.

Bixby

  1. Go to the settings menu and then to the “General” tab.
  2. Then select the item “Voice” and confirm the entry with “Yes”.
  3. Select Bixby as the voice assistant.
  4. Log in to an existing Samsung account or create a new one.
  5. Agree to the privacy notice – recording verification is optional.

Google Assistant

  1. Confirm the Assistant button or the microphone icon on the remote control.
  2. After that, you will be shown an introduction and you don’t have to do anything else but perform and complete the setup step by step.

ThinQ AI

  1. Go to “General” and the AI service via the Settings menu item.
  2. Select the cogwheel under “Voice recognition help and settings”.
  3. Activate the hands-free voice control.

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Image Copyrights: © Amazon, Apple, Google, LG, Microsoft, Samsung,
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