This might be hard to imagine, but there was a time when if you wanted to change the channel on the TV you had to get up and flip a switch – TV today would be unrecognizable without a remote in our hands. In the next few years we might feel the same way about voice-enabled remote controls where we can channel surf just by talking.

Today, Comcast announced a new voice-enabled remote control which uses RF technology from Texas Instruments (TI). This could be the tipping point in a major revolution in the way Xfinity customers interact with their TV and set top boxes.

The technology that makes all of this possible has a lot to do with how remote controls work. There’s a huge transition today from old fashioned Infrared remotes to radio frequency (RF) remote controls based on the ZigBee® RF4CE™ standard. To keep the cost and power consumption down, the RF technology has a limited bandwidth for data. Adding voice requires you to compress the data, send it from the remote via RF to the set-top box, and then uncompress the data before passing it to the voice recognition engine. TI’s technology became the first to accomplish this and still maintain the signal quality of the voice data with no impact to the user experience.

Set-top boxes are taking the place as a hub of activity in the near future. Already, you can use your voice-enabled remote to search for your favorite shows or actors, control your DVR, check stock quotes and more. Soon it will be common place to search the Internet, check the weather and make dinner reservations all from your TV or set-top box. In perhaps the most exciting development, set-top boxes will become the center of our entire homes, controlling the thermostat, door locks, lighting and more through the Internet of Things (IoT). As the set-top box and TV become even more of a centerpiece of our lives, so will the voice-enabled remote.

TI and Comcast worked together to bring the leading edge voice-enabled remote control technology to Xfinity customers.  So give your fingers a rest and clear your throat – changing the channel, and so much more, will soon be as easy as chatting with a friend.