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Nvidia Shield gets deep integration with Google Assistant voice controls

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Nvidia keeps trying to turn its Shield TV into the indispensable set-top box of the home. It combines TV, movies, music, games, and now a deep integration with voice-based remote controls via Google Assistant.

Shield TV is a web-connected device that brings apps to the living room. It can stream games or movies to your TV, and its Shield Experience 6.0 upgrade now offers Google Assistant voice commands, enabling you to speak the name of an actress and to see all of the movies available on your TV apps, from Netflix to HBO. You can ask it questions or get it to do things like turn the lights on and raise the shades when you get home.

Nvidia launched Shield TV in 2015, and it upgraded it to a 4K HDR TV earlier this year. The company wants the Shield to be the hub of your home, for entertainment and more, said Ali Kani, the general manager of Shield, in an interview with GamesBeat. The device has a powerful processor and 3GB of main memory, and it sells for $180 and up. Nvidia has worked closely with Google for months to deeply integrate the assistant to simplify your life, and Google tested hundreds of Shield devices.

Above: Ali Kani is general manager of Shield TV at Nvidia

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

“We have made Google Assistant into a hands-free, voice-activated service on your TV,” said Kani. “We think this gives us a chance to redefine TV.”

Kani walked me through a long demo of how the Google Assistant has been enhanced for the TV experience. It can search apps on Shield and control your media with voice commands like “pause” or “play Game of Thrones.” Plus, by taking advantage of the TV screen, you get an enhanced visual response to your questions. A microphone is built into Nvidia’s Shield TV remote, but you can also navigate the menus by pressing buttons as well.

For some of the simpler queries, the Google Assistant is super fast. But for more difficult queries, it may take some time before it gives an answer. Your wait is never much more than a handful of seconds, though. Kani asked, “What was the movie where they say, ‘Show me the money’?” And after a short delay, Google Assistant displayed a Wikipedia card on the screen for Jerry Maguire.

Above: You can ask Shield TV who plays the mother of dragons, and Google Assistant will answer.

Image Credit: Nvidia

Kani asked, “Who plays Daenerys Targaryen?”, and the assistant quickly answered that that Emilia Clarke played the role and that she was also Sarah Connor in the film Terminator Genisys. That means that the natural language processing of Google Assistant now works on your TV, giving you wider latitude to ask all sorts of questions and get meaningful answers.

Kani asked how the Oakland A’s baseball team was doing. The assistant display the results of the last game, and then it called up the current standings to show how poorly the A’s are doing.

You can use Google Assistant to browse movies, music, or TV shows. But you can also ask it to display your Google photos. Kani showed pictures from a trip to Egypt. Those photos were stored in the cloud, but the connection to Kani’s Google account made them available on the big screen. You can also ask what’s on your agenda for the day, and the device will show your Google Calendar schedule.

Above: You can access your Google Photos on Shield TV.

Image Credit: Nvidia

Shield has also been integrated with Samsung’s SmartThings and Google’s Nest technology, giving you more access to the Internet of Things in your home. (If you’ve figured out how to make it all work.) With SmartThings or Nest, you can set up your home to turn up the air conditioner or set the room for “TV time” using voice commands. The TV time could bring down the shades, darken the lights, and bring up your favorites on the TV. It could even set your phone to vibrate or silent mode.

If apps have been certified to work with Google Assistant or SmarterThings, then they will work with Shield’s voice-activated remote.

You can buy a SmartThings Link, a USB dongle that unlocks the Shield as a SmartThings Hub, for $15, a discount from the regular $40 price.

You can set up routines to run in your smart home, like what you want the house to do while you’re sleeping or on vacation or out shopping. And starting today, Shield owners will get three months of YouTube Red, without ads, for free. Later on, Nvidia plans to sell little pucks with microphones that will allow you to access Google Assistant from anywhere in your home.

Shield TV competes with rivals such as Roku or Apple TV while Google Assistant competes with Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa.

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