Amazon has just announced an extension to their Alexa Skills Kit called the Video Skill API. This will allow developers to control set-top boxes and video apps directly through more natural language. Once a device or service you use implements these new capabilities, you’ll be able to simply say something like “Alexa, play Manchester by the Sea” and the content will start playing through the appropriate device.
The elephant in the room is the Amazon Fire TV line of devices. Customers have been asking for the ability to use an external Alexa device to control the Fire TV ever since the original Amazon Echo was released in 2014. What Amazon has announced here is the ability for any television device manufacturer or app creator to implement that exact capability. So the highly requested feature Amazon hasn’t yet added to their own line of TV streamers has come first to third-party devices, like the DISH Hopper set-top box.
Now that an official API exists for Alexa to control video playback on external devices, you have to assume it won’t be long before you’ll be able to use a device like the Echo or Echo Dot to control the Fire TV. It just would have been nice for Amazon to launch this feature on their own streaming devices first, before making it available to other manufacturers.