Comcast: Received a patent for Intelligent Speaker Design

Comcast has received a patent for a smart speaker — one with a very unusual design, to say the least. Instead of opting for a spherical shape that comes with the Amazon Echo and Apple HomePod Mini, or even the rounded rectangular look of the Google Nest Audio device, a sketch shows what appears to be a speaker with a sloped top and a broad base.

Online records show that Comcast first filed for the patent last year, but it didn’t get approved until April 2022. As seen in the sketch, the device seems to have playback controls on the speaker’s side, with an additional button and a small stand on the bottom.

At first glance, you’d say this device looks more like a router (minus the antennas) than a smart speaker, which makes sense for a company that specializes in connectivity. But after one of my colleagues said it looked like a bedpan, you couldn’t unsee the resemblance.

The funny thing is that Comcast was reportedly looking into making some health-focused speaker that tracked your bathroom habits in 2019. Although it never made it into consumers’ hands (or bathrooms), it was supposed to come with sensors that tracked how often someone got up to use the bathroom and how long they stayed in there. At the time, Comcast emphasized that it was not a smart speaker.

Comcast Corporation (previously known as American Cable Systems and Comcast Holdings) is an American multinational telecommunications partnership headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is the second-biggest broadcasting and cable television company globally by revenue (behind AT&T), the largest pay-TV company, the biggest cable T.V. company, the largest home Internet service provider in the United States, and the nation’s third-largest home telephone service provider.

It delivers services to U.S. residential and commercial customers in 40 states and the District of Columbia. In addition, as the parent company of the international media company NBCUniversal since 2011, Comcast is a producer of feature movies for theatrical exhibitions and over-the-air and cable television programming.

Comcast holds and operates the Xfinity residential cable communications subsidiary, Comcast Business, a commercial services provider; Xfinity Mobile, an MVNO of Verizon; (NBC, Telemundo, TeleXitos, and Cozi T.V.); over-the-air national broadcast network channels multiple cable-only channels (including MSNBC, CNBC, USA Network, Oxygen, Syfy, NBCSN, Bravo, G4 and E!); animation studios (DreamWorks Animation, Illumination, Universal Animation Studios) the film studio Universal Pictures; the VOD streaming service Peacock; and Universal Parks & Resorts. It also has substantial holdings in digital distribution, such as thePlatform, which was obtained in 2006, and ad-tech company FreeWheel, which it received in 2014.

Since October 2018, it is even the parent organization of mass media pan-European company Sky Group, making it the most prominent media company with more than 53Mn subscribers in Europe and the U.S.

Comcast has been condemned for a variety of reasons. First, its customer satisfaction ratings were among the most downward in the cable industry from 2008 – to 2010. Second, it has violated net neutrality practices in the past. Despite its pledge to a narrow definition of net neutrality, critics advocate a description that precludes any distinction between Comcast’s private network assistance and the rest of the Internet.

Critics also point out a shortage of competition in most of Comcast’s service areas, particularly the limited competition among cable providers. Third, given its negotiating power as a large ISP, some suspect it could unfairly leverage paid-to-peer agreements to influence end-user connection swiftness.

Finally, its ownership of content production (in NBCUniversal) and distribution (as an ISP) has increased antitrust concerns. These issues and others led to Comcast being dubbed “The Worst Company in America” by The Consumerist in 2010 and 2014.