It was way back at an E3 event when Microsoft showed off the power of adding voice search to entertainment by letting the Kinect device search for content, all from the user's own voice commands. This particular lesson doesn't appear to have been lost on Apple, as bits of new code found for iOS 7.1 suggests that a future version of Apple TV may come with Siri's voice control systems.
Reports suggest that the code in question was found in both iOS 7.1 and iOS 7.1.1, but not in iOS 7.0.6, suggesting that it's a fairly recent change. The code includes a “supporting property-list resource” for Assistant, which is the name that Apple uses internally to refer to Siri. Meanwhile, an array known as UIDeviceFamily makes it clear just what versions of the hardware will work with Assistant, normally denoted as “1” for the iPod Touch and iPhone line, and “2” for the iPad line. Normally, “3” is denoted for Apple TV, and this time, “3” showed up in the UIDeviceFamily line.
This is where things get a little odd. After all, the Apple TV line doesn't actually come with a microphone input, so how would Siri manage to work with Apple TV? One of the key points of any voice command system is that it can accept voice input, and right now, Apple TV just plain can't. There have been stirrings about a new Apple TV system in the past—one that has a particular focus on games, apps and the like—so it's possible that a new version of Apple TV would come with the necessary microphones and the like to bring in the voice input.
This is potentially a game-changer in terms of video content; we've already seen somewhat what it can do thanks to Microsoft's work with the Kinect, and more recently with the Amazon Fire TV system. Essentially, we're working toward a point where we can provide a vocal request to our televisions and the like to find a certain actor, genre, or title and get results accordingly. It's still a ways off before we can get there fully, of course, but it represents a major shift in the way we currently get our content via flipping randomly through listings or directly inputting numbers or even text.
Of course, there's one fundamental issue that seems to be going unaddressed here in terms of all the content that's still outstanding. What good does it do to be able to tell our television to bring up, say, the latest episode of “Gold Rush” or the like only to discover that said episode is only available through a cable provider? Granted, more general searches, especially in the early days, are likely to produce fruit here, but we're still a long ways off from a complete “say it and see it” sort of setup. Still, with the mechanics increasingly in place, it might be that the standard remote control as we know it is on its way out. That's a very different prospect from the one many see today, and all such a system would have to do is start showing up on cable boxes and similar hardware—smart televisions and Blu-ray players in particular—and the package is complete.
Still, Siri on Apple TV could be a very big draw for some people, especially given the backing of the iTunes infrastructure. Only time will tell just how far it all goes, but this could be where things really get started.
Edited by Maurice Nagle