Sky Q gets huge UI update with improved voice control from today

Sky has begun rolling out dramatic changes to its Sky Q set-top box from today, heralding the biggest change to the user interface since its launch. The platform is also ramping up voice interaction, with improved voice discovery made possible through machine learning techniques.

Subscribers will find that their updated Sky Q box now sports an Expanded View UI, which brings more content onto the screen when browsing, along with intuitive smart buttons.

This Expanded View means an end to the familiar static menu bar. In its place is a dynamic collapsible menu, enabling more content to flow onto the screen. This translates to more recommendations, be they TV, film, online video, podcast, music or games.

Navigating TV shows themselves should also become easier. Every series now gets a Show Centre, which puts all seasons, episodes, recordings, broadcast schedules and on-demand links within easy scrollable reach.

There’s also a multipurpose Smart Button that encourages you to watch the next episode in a season. It can also switch functionality between Continue, Delete, Watch from the Start, or Play the next episode.

The changes are the tip of an iceberg of development on the Sky Q box, one that now allows the set-top box to receive firmware updates via IP rather than satellite download. The result will be far more updates.

'Previously we were restricted to a big firmware dump,' Fraser Stirling, Sky’s Group Chief Product Officer told us. 'Now we can go from two firmware releases a year to two a month! We want to be agile. We’re able to develop the platform at a much faster rate.'

Sky is also upgrading its Disney+ app, adding HDR support. However Dolby Atmos on Sky’s Disney+ app (and the Sky Q Netflix app for that matter), will remain elusive.

Sky says it wants to start fast-tracking app integration on the platform, and has pledged to dramatically increase the number of apps available over the course of the Summer.

Sports navigation is also enjoying a revamp, with all the latest games, news, documentaries, fixtures, podcasts and tables now grouped in a new Sports Centre.

Saying ‘football’ into the voice remote will take you directly to a page that brings together live and on-demand footie content from all channels and apps, including Sky Sports, Sky Sports App, BT Sport, terrestrial channels, YouTube and Spotify. The same applies to F1, cricket, golf, boxing and tennis.

Sky says it has been refining its voice search and recognition, so it’s able to conduct fuzzy searches and make contextual recommendations. The idea is for it to be more intuitive and easy to use. In addition to movie titles, you can ask for themes and genres, alongside actors. Saying 'thrillers with Jason Staham' will bring up relevant suggestions of what to watch. Before the end of the year, Sky says we’ll be also able to ask for entertainment themes too, such as ‘new shows’, ‘Halloween’ or ‘Christmas’.

But if you’re eager for live sports in HDR, you’re in for a wait. Sky tells HCC that while it’s committed to rolling out more HDR content, for Sky Originals and Sky Cinema movies before Christmas, live sport in HDR won’t be available until 2021. 'We’re building the transmission suite right now.'

Stirling told HCC that the Olympics in 2021 would be carried in HDR, but not for every event. 'We’ll be looking at the Opening and Closing Ceremonies,' he confided.

Sky Q is available from £29/month on an 18 month contract, more details over on