TiVo announced today an update to its line of set-top boxes that makes voice a main feature. The new Bolt Vox and Mini Vox devices include all the features of the original TiVo Bolt and TiVo Mini. But now, the devices also have native voice functionality. That means the set-top boxes, using the new TiVo Vox Remote, can now search for, record, and play content across live TV, DVR, on-demand, and streaming services using voice commands.
Aside from a color change from white to black and the addition of voice functionality, the Bolt Vox and Mini Vox are exactly the same as the original devices. The TiVo Bolt has four integrated tuners for watching or recording between 75 and 150 hours of HD content (depending on storage capacity). The TiVo Bolt+, which came out at the end of last year, is now the most specced-out version of the TiVo Bolt Vox. It features six tuners and 3TB of storage space, which is good for up to 450 hours of content. However, that model doesn’t include an antenna, so it can only be used with digital cable systems.
The Mini Vox pairs with an existing TiVo box and allows users to get the TiVo experience on other TVs in the house. By pairing a TiVo Mini Vox to a Bolt Vox device, you can use TiVo features like SkipMode and QuickMode, stream and watch live TV, access DVR content when connected via Ethernet or MoCA home network, and more. The new Mini Vox also supports streaming 4K content, a feature that the original did not have.
Voice commands are initiated through the new Vox Remote, which ships with all Bolt Vox and Mini Vox devices, and it can be purchased separately as well. There’s a blue-colored voice button on the remote that, when pressed, prompts the Bolt Vox or Mini Vox to listen to you. TiVo explained to Ars that it wanted the voice functionality on the new TiVo devices to be the best for entertainment use. You won’t be able to ask a Bolt Vox about the weather or latest sports scores, but you will be able to make multi-layered entertainment requests. For example, you can say, “show me comedies,” and the redesigned TiVo UI will pull up comedy titles it thinks you’ll enjoy based on your previous watch history. Then you can say, “only from the ’80s,” and the device will narrow down your selection further.
This kind of multi-layered voice control sounds convenient because it doesn’t force you to know exactly what you want immediately. Instead, it allows you to naturally build on previous requests. Most voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant can’t do this—each question you ask is its own contained command, and building off of a previous request is often impossible. It makes sense for TiVo to make this kind of questioning easier because we tend to narrow down our TV and movie search options as we think of criterion that fits our mood.
In addition to search, voice commands also let you hop among channels more easily (you can simply say the name of a channel and the new TiVo devices will turn to it immediately). Voice commands also let you find a show in your DVR vault, as well as see all the purchase options for TV shows and movies. The redesigned TiVo interface makes everything more visual with show thumbnails and artwork, and the new SmartBar carousel feature suggests titles for you based on your watch history and the time of day. That means the new software will learn what you like to watch in the morning versus at night and suggest similar content at the right time.
SmartBar will likely come in handy in a multi-person household. TiVo doesn’t currently support multiple user profiles on one device, so narrowing down titles by time of day may help suggest content for specific people in your home. If your children watch their favorite shows in the afternoon after school, you’ll only see related children’s content recommended during that time. Children’s shows won’t be recommended to you late at night after the kids have gone to bed.
In addition to showing content from different streaming services like Netflix (there’s even a dedicated Netflix button on the Vox Remote), the new TiVo interface will show you movies and TV episodes you can purchase and your buying options. Connecting services like Amazon Prime, Vudu, and others will allow users to quickly make purchases through TiVo by selecting the best buying option after deciding on a movie or show to watch.
The new TiVo Bolt Vox will be available later this month starting at $199. The Mini Vox will start at $179, and the Vox Remote for Vox devices will cost $39. Those who already have a TiVo Roamio device will be able to use voice features through a firmware update and by purchasing a model of the Vox Remote specifically for those devices, which costs $45.