Amazon has announced additions to Alexa’s Video Skill API, which is what enables Alexa to interface with video content and services. The new capabilities are targeted towards controlling more aspects of traditional cable and satellite set-top boxes. Alexa can now manage DVR recordings, which includes starting/setting new recordings. Alexa can now also launch apps and navigate to specific interfaces, like the program guide, on set-top boxes.
DISH, Verizon, TiVo, and DIRECTV have committed to supporting the new Alexa capabilities soon. Supported Alexa users with supported DVRs will soon be able to ask Alexa to schedule a recording by simply saying something like “Alexa, record the Mariners game.” Alexa will also be able to launch apps on set-top boxes the same way it can currently launch apps on Fire TV devices. By saying “Alexa, launch Prime Video,” you’ll be able to navigate directly to that app on traditional set-top boxes that support Alexa controls.
Navigation with Alexa is not limited to apps. You’ll also be able to go directly to various set-top box interfaces, such as the program guide, the home screen, and the DVR interface by simply asking Alexa. Deciding which screens Alexa can navigate to will be up to each individual cable and satellite service provided, but Amazon has built-in the ability for Alexa to navigate virtually anywhere in the device’s interface.
Lastly, Amazon is now providing traditional set-top boxes the ability to report their current state to Alexa. This will provide more natural and seamless control of those devices through Alexa. For example, you’ll be able to say “Alexa, pause” to control media playback without needing to direct the command to a specific Alexa skill, like you currently have to do.
These new additions bring traditional set-top boxes up to par with Fire TV devices as far as control through Alexa is concerned. While Fire TV devices can’t record video, yet, customers have been able to use Alexa to naturally launch apps, navigate home, and control media playback on Fire TV devices for some time.