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CES: A Conversation With the TV

Kelli B. Grant

Senior consumer reporter and “Deal of Day” columnist Kelli B. Grant travels to Las Vegas to find the best, the worst, and the most hyped gadgets at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. Join her as she roams the exhibit floor for three days, with dispatches here and on Twitter @kellibgrant.

Ask, “What’s on tonight?” and the TV may soon be able to provide an answer — without even putting down a bowl of chips and reaching for a single button on the remote.

Voice command technology has popped up repeatedly at CES — manufacturers including Lenovo and Samsung plan to include it in some of their latest models, and startups are lobbying for their own licensing deals. Among them is Vlingo, a virtual assistant for the TV capable of processing requests like finding movies currently playing that feature action movies with Angelina Jolie or romantic comedies with Jennifer Aniston, and setting an upcoming Simpsons episode to DVR.

But is there any chance, as we were envisioning, of a comic mishap that has the TV blasting sound at increasing levels if we mention to a friend within earshot of the TV that the Dow’s trading volume is up? A spokesman says it’s possible, but unlikely. The system requires its owner to say “hey, Vlingo” to wake it up, and it typically confirms commands before executing. Mishaps can be corrected by saying “stop” or “cancel” and the program goes back to sleep after a few minutes of inactivity.

But cool as it may be, viewers may not see this coming to their home set this year. A spokesman says the company is currently preparing to license Vlingo to cable companies, TV manufacturers and other device manufacturers for inclusion in future model years.


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  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to or tweet @SMPayDirt.