Comcast’s Watson touts AI as operator ramps up X1 voice commands

Comcast's Watson Image: Comcast
Comcast Cable CEO Dave Watson

DENVER—Artificial intelligence is going to “change the customer experience profoundly,” Comcast Cable CEO Dave Watson declared at a lunchtime SCTE Cable-TEC Expo panel yesterday, as the operator disclosed that it's attempting to close the gap on tech giants Apple and Amazon in the race for voice-control supremacy. 

Comcast plans to broaden the functionality of its X1 Voice Remote, adding the ability of the device to not only be more responsive to commands on the X1 video platform, but for home-automation functions like alarm, lighting and thermostat control. 

“AI is turning into a very useful tool,” said Watson, who spoke alongside Arris CEO Bruce McClelland. “And I think X1 is shifting from being just a very good user interface to a very broad platform. It’s not just video—it’s marketplaces, it's music, it's IoT, there’s a bunch of things we can do with it.”

Speaking on a wide range of topics at his first Cable-Tec Expo as Comcast Cable chief executive, Watson said Comcast needs to continue to improve its customers’ Wi-Fi experience, particularly out of the home. The company currently touts 18 million Wi-Fi hotspots but needs to upgrade the experience of transitioning customers from the indoor to outdoor environment. 

“We’ll get there,” he said. 

“By 2020, there’s going to be something like 50 devices in the home hanging off of the Wi-Fi, so it better be good,” he added.

Meanwhile, at the event moderated by Multichannel News’ Jeff Baumgartner, both Watson and McClelland addressed the issue of the wireless industry’s 5G buildout. 

Arris, for example, wants to establish a business in building 5G small cells. “It’s not unlike the HFC network,” McClelland said. “We continue to split nodes and reduce service group sizes.

“There’s an opportunity [for Arris] to be very disruptive in the mobile space,” he added.