As a social and lifestyle blogger I enjoy one of life’s rare privileges to experience new products or services before it launches publicly and over the years I have had a variety of interesting experiences to write about. So when the opportunity to experience a new TV programming service came to me, I will admit I was both curious and bit unsure as how I would have anything new or interesting to comment on this aspect. I mean TV programming has not really changed much since channel surfing became a universal pastime for the earthlings and new advances such as 3D or Ultra-Def screens that were to revolutionize home entertainment turned out to be a bust.
Well, as it turns out, TV programming can be made quite different and interesting and fun. The answer came in Shaw’s most innovative service recently launched in the market called BlueSky TV.
The entire experience is controlled by a handheld remote but the features are accentuated through voice commands. It is not so much in that it can be controlled through voice command, which already exists in several Smart TV sets, but how fluidly it works on the Shaw device.
BlueSky TV is modeled on Comcast’s Xfinity platform, which is already very popular in US households. Shaw is the first to introduce it to the Canadian market and an US import we are surely going to love!
The voice recognition software is incredibly good. Its is adept at recognizing most English accents and can pick up on sound cues even with loud background noise. That is clearly the most impressive part. But recognition is different from execution of the command and this is where most other voice activation devices have failed (“I am sorry, I did not quite get that” starts to get tiring after the 10th attempt) but BlueSky TV has missed on just one occasion of the several hundreds of commands I threw its way to date.
Now if it was simply a great voice activation device that might be impressive but perhaps not ground breaking. Again, BlueSky TV is more than a listening device, it is quite intelligent in adapting to the user’s desire of specific viewing experience. For instance, it can make recommendations on “What To Watch” if you ask it and the results are probably based on a combination of what’s trending and my own personal viewing history. It also integrates various subscription channels in to a single source – I call it the “Wikipedia of TV” – so if you are watching a movie and search for a specific actor in that movie, BlueSky TV will show you a brief bio of the actor, other movie appearances, and what else is available on BlueSky TV featuring that actor! Customers can also use the voice remote to search for content by actor, genre or even a famous movie quote.
Channel scrolling is still available but the newer search methods are more fun to use. Besides the voice activation, the GUIDE button on the controller will pull up a navigation menu that is very simple to use. This makes getting to the desired channel or movie much faster than before. The X1 controller box is the brain behind it all, and it also works as a PVR. You can commence recording while watching if you need to leave or set it to record multiple channels at varying times very easily.
There are some new technologies that was a first for me. For instance, if you land on a channel playing something that you wish you were able to watch from the beginning, up to a certain point in the viewing timeline, you can start watching from the beginning. Movies can be easily paused or forwarded as well.
The channel starts at 101. The channel listings are well-defined with major networks within the 100s, Sports, News and Weather in the 200s, Family and Kids in the 300s, Popular in the 400s, and Special Interests in the 500s. Different channels can be previewed without having to stop viewing whatever specific channel you are on. This comes in really handy where sports scores of different games can be pulled up while watching a particular game.
One feature that I think would be a neat addition to an already fantastic system is a “mood” feature. A common thing that happens when an individual or even the family sit down to watch something on TV is they really don’t have any specific thing in mind on what to watch but feels like watching something “romantic”, or “scary”, or “action” and would like to see a list of potential channels playing anything at a given time that fits that mood theme.
In summary, BlueSky TV is a very powerful and fun television viewing experience and it has consistently been able to keep me engaged in watching something that entices. There is a certain overall sensory perception that cannot be quite described in the English language of this incredible viewing experience. However, the brilliant Germans have a term for it – Sensorich Verstarken – loosely translated as sensory strengthened! That one instance that I mentioned BlueSky TV did not find any result was when I spoke that German phrase. However, I am told, the team is working on multiple language versions of BlueSky TV!
Check out a preview of the experience in the video below.
All Images used in this post are provided by Shaw Communications.
FreeRange TV App by BlueSky TV