The voice assistant space, which seriously kicked into high gear during 2018, shows no signs of slowing down. This year’s CES has seen another huge raft of voice-related announcements and product launches. What’s intriguing is that companies that have had voice response built into their products for a few years now are starting to embrace voice assistants from Google and Amazon, as a layer on top of the existing voice services.
The most recent example is Dish, which announced today, January 8, that it would be building Google Assistant into its Hopper DVRs in the coming months. If you’re an existing Dish customer, with a Hopper, Joey, or Wally set-top box — and a Dish voice remote — you’ll get Google Assistant for free as a software update; there’s no new hardware to buy. Previously, Dish devices have been compatible with Google Assistant, but you needed to pair your set-top box with an external smart speaker, like Google Home. That’s no longer the case, and they’re also compatible with Amazon Alexa.
Dish says that the GA functionality will exist side by side with existing Dish-based voice operations, enabling features that weren’t available through an external Google device. Previously, users could ask Google to find them shows to watch, or control specific functions like play and pause. According to a company press release, there will soon be much more you can do: “Customers will be able to use the Dish voice remote to ask the Assistant questions and see answers on the screen like the weather forecast or games scores. Users will also be able to control smart home devices, such as dimming the lights or adjusting the thermostat, and relive favorite memories by pulling up Google Photos on the TV screen all with their voice.”
That last point is intriguing. Typically, to get Google Assistant to display Google content on-screen, you’ve needed either a Chromecast device, or an Android TV device. If Dish’s set-top boxes can display Google Photos after the GA update, we’re curious about what else it may be able to do.
Conjecture aside, this is good news for Dish subscribers who have been thinking about getting buying a Google smart speaker. With Google Assistant baked into their set-top box, you get all of the GA functionality, without having to add another device to your home. Of course, it’s not quite the same thing. With a Google speaker, its always-on far-field mics can respond to you as long as you’re within its pickup range. Using GA through a Dish device means having the Dish voice remote within easy reach, and then using it.