How Toshiba Created a New, Voice-enabled TV Experience

Kristin Fritsche Mar 18, 2021
Alexa Voice Service Connected Devices Works with Alexa Inspiration Alexa Built-in Smart Home

"We believe that Voice Control for TV can become in the long run what touch screen was for the mobile phone industry. It will completely transform the way we interact with our TVs – and Toshiba TV is already well on the way to achieving this.”

- Bart Kuijten, commercial director, Toshiba TVs in Europe

The Vision Behind the Brand  

The smart TV as home entertainment – that is Toshiba TV’s vision for the future of television. The brand, which is part of the Japanese IT and electronics giant Toshiba Corporation, is focused on integrating new smart functions and interaction concepts into television sets around the world. Recent innovations include the TRU Picture Engine, a tool that upscales lower-resolution picture content for 4K TVs and optimises it for a smooth and detailed display.

Toshiba TV is motivated by the desire to reinforce televisions as an attractive and sustainable option within the ecosystem of digital connectivity – while offering this premium technology at a retail price affordable for as many people as possible.

Why Voice?

Viewing habits are changing, especially among younger generations. At a time when TV and video content is increasingly viewed on smart mobile devices, a top priority is continuously improving and enhancing the user experience of stationary Toshiba TV devices. The answer: a technology that is exciting, networkable, and fun and will appeal to users of all generations.

Voice technology is singularly suited to achieving this goal. Because communicating through voice is both convenient and intuitive, the technology is accessible to everyone, from children to the tech-savvy or older generations. Voice control has become an increasingly essential factor for developers and manufacturers of smart devices – including smart TVs.

Integrating gesture control technology into Toshiba TVs did not yield satisfactory results. The development of a voice-enabled TV, which can be operated completely hands-free and serves as an integrative part of the smart home architecture, is strengthening the positioning of Toshiba TV as an innovative brand, giving it an edge over competitors' products.

“Alexa, turn on the TV.”

Toshiba TV had previously launched joint development projects with Amazon, including the integration of Prime Video. The synergy between technological expertise, comprehensive service offerings for developers and a directly connected retail platform were further incentives for choosing Alexa as the basis for Toshiba’s voice control technology.

"The Alexa brand is now firmly established as a leading player in the voice market," says Kuijten. "In addition to the outstanding technological possibilities Alexa Voice Service offers us, it is a great advantage that end customers, dealers and developers know and understand the brand.”

In 2018, Toshiba TV first launched selected devices that made it possible to control UHD and Full HD smart TVs via Amazon Echo or Echo Dot (Works with Alexa). In 2019 Toshiba launched the first Alexa Built-in integration within their UL5A series (4K) and one year later in 2020, the UK4B (4K HDR) and WK3 (HD) series. “Moving to Alexa Built-In was a natural progression”, says Kuijten, “we have released several models to market that Work With Alexa last year. Customers told us they loved the flexibility and ease this afforded them. The TV experience provided by Alexa Built-in is perfect for customers who want to talk directly to the TV to access content, services, and more, whether on the main screen in the living room or a second TV in the kitchen or bedroom.” Today, most 4K HDR and Full HD smart TVs from Toshiba TV in this series come with Alexa features and all smart TV functions can be operated via voice control. Additional central Alexa functions such as smart home applications, calendar management, Amazon Music, weather reports, and other information services are also available via the smart TV.

How Toshiba leveraged the Alexa Built-in feature in Marketing

Brands can take advantage of the well-known Amazon Alexa brand messaging for their PR and marketing activities: “The Alexa Built-in proposition provided us with some fantastic marketing opportunities. From a PR perspective, media loved that the WK3 model was a UK first and having the capabilities of an Alexa product within a TV means you could build a smart home ecosystem around the screen. The UK4B model introduced a premium cinematic experience to this new dynamic, meaning the main screen in the living room could become the hub of a smart home – this was a really interesting story from a PR perspective.”

“We knew this story would also resonate with our wider audience on social media. For both social media and digital advertising, we had to think video-first to ensure our audience saw the maximum impact of having Alexa Built-In. We produced Alexa-focused product videos, and also partnered with social influencers to demonstrate how the UK4B’s voice control not only improved their TV viewing, but also a range of activities they could now do using the TV, such as exercising and baking.”

The Benefits at a Glance

  1. Customer Convenience
    Voice control based on Alexa built-in removes the need for a remote control, thereby significantly increasing customer convenience in a range of everyday situations. Be it in the kitchen, bedroom, or living room, users can control stationary TV sets with their voices alone. The result is a more natural, easy way of interaction that is both technologically advanced and highly accessible.

  2. Future-proof Concept
    The new generation of Toshiba TVs benefits from the growing range of compatible smart home devices. Also Alexa skills, both existing and future ones, will automatically be available to the end customer, making sure that the user experience remains enjoyable and convenient even as the technology progresses.

  3. Innovation Capability
    With their new hands-free voice control on their newest TV (launched in the UK), Toshiba TV firmly reinstates the television set into the smart home ecosystem – a feat that also reflects on the innovative potential of the brand itself. And indeed, the positive reactions of customers and dealers confirm that the WK3 series supports the image of Toshiba TV as a pioneering brand with an outstanding market position. At the same time, the full potential of voice control has to offer is far from exhausted. With its continuing efforts in this field, Toshiba TV is poised to help shape the long-term vision of the television industry.


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