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Saturday, April 20, 2024

How to Use Voice Commands to Enhance Your TV

Despite wide availability and vast improvements in speech recognition, most folks rarely use voice assistants. And when we do talk to Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri, it’s often just to ask about the weather. But there are a few voice commands you could be using today to enhance your TV viewing experience, because, let’s face it, navigating with a TV remote is a pain.

Imagine you’re halfway through an episode of Andor or your current favorite TV show, and the doorbell goes off. You can use a voice command to pause the action or rewind to where you left off when you return. You can also use voice commands to launch a streaming app, check who directed the show, or even find out what the actor on screen just said

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What You Need

All the best TVs and TV streaming devices have some form of voice control built in. The most versatile are Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Roku voice commands, but others offer at least some of the same functionality. If your remote has a button with a microphone icon on it, then it supports voice commands. 

You can also sometimes use a smartphone, smart speaker, or smart display to control your TV, provided it is in the same room and connected to the same Wi-Fi network. This is handy if you don’t want to have to reach for the remote and press that microphone button before you issue a command. 

There’s usually some setup required for all this to work, like adding your smart TV to the Google or Apple Home apps, Samsung SmartThings app, or installing the Roku app. With Amazon’s Alexa, you can pair smart speakers to your Fire TV by opening the Alexa app, tapping MoreTV & Video, selecting your Fire TV, and choosing the Echo speaker you want to control the TV with. You may also need to link your streaming services accounts, but that’s usually part of the setup for streaming devices like Chromecast with Google TV.

The Basics

Simple voice commands that will work with any service, include things like:

PlayPauseResumeStopPlay from the beginningVolume downVolume upChoosing What to Watch

Because it’s such a pain to type anything using a remote control, voice commands are great for launching apps, specific shows, and movies, or finding content that you might like. Here are a few commands to try:

Launch NetflixOpen HuluShow me movies with Sam RockwellPlay Stranger Things on NetflixShow me sci-fi TV showsFind action movies in 4KFind all Martin Scorcese movies

With Google Assistant, you don’t even need to know the name of the movie, you can say things like, “Stallone, boxing movie” and Rocky will pop up, or “funny vampire movie” to get What We Do in the Shadows.

Back and Forward

It can be tricky to fast-forward or rewind with accuracy using a remote, but you can be precise with voice commands. Try these:

Rewind 10 minutesSkip forward 30 secondsGo back 10 secondsFast forward three minutesPlay next episodeMost PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

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With Apple TV, you can ask Siri, “What did she just say?” and it will skip back 10 seconds and temporarily turn on subtitles, which is great when the dialog is hard to make out. 

Questions About What You Are Watching

You can also ask questions about whatever you are watching. For example:

Who directed this?What’s this rated?Who is in this?Who stars in Brooklyn Nine-Nine?When was this released?Beyond TV

If you are using a streaming device like Apple TV or Chromecast with Google TV, you can ask the assistants things that aren't related to what you're watching, such as:

Find Chinese restaurants near mePlay music (genre, band, track)Where is my iPhone?What’s the weather like tomorrow?Show my photos

If you have smart home devices, like smart lighting or video doorbells, and they are in your Home app and on the same network, you can use voice commands like, “Dim the lights” or “Show me the front door.”

Turning off

These commands can prove especially handy when you are nodding off and can’t find the remote or want to set your kid’s bedtime:

Turn off the TVTurn off the TV in 20 minutes

You can use voice commands to turn your TV on as well, though you will need to set this up with your streaming device, add your TV to the Home app, or activate the relevant Alexa skill.

Routines and Shortcuts

It can be annoying having to repeatedly say “Alexa," “Hey Google,” or ”Hey Siri," or press the mic button on the remote, so it’s worth setting up little routines or shortcuts that include multiple actions from a single voice command. For example, you might want to dim the lights, turn on the TV, and switch your phone to Do Not Disturb with a command like “It’s movie time!” We’ve got instructions on how to do things like that in the following guides:

How to Create Custom Alexa RoutinesHow to Create Custom Google Home RoutinesHow to Use Siri Shortcuts

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