The Amazon Fire TV is about to gain a lot of functionality. Alexa, the voice assistant in the Amazon Echo speaker will be making its way to the Amazon Fire TV. Soon you’ll be able to use your Fire TV voice remote to do everything the Echo does, right on your Fire TV. With Alexa on the Fire TV, you can listen to Audible and Kindle Unlimited audiobooks, check your Google Calendar, reorder items from Amazon, play music, get traffic conditions, and a whole lot more. These new features will essentially turn your TV into an Amazon Echo, minus the always listening feature.
While digging around in the source code of the Fire OS 5 developer preview, I uncovered overwhelming evidence that Amazon will be adding full fledged Alexa capabilities to the Fire TV. I can’t say for sure if the new Alexa functionality will only be available on the next-generation Fire TV, but the source code I’ve uncovered seems to imply that Alexa will also be coming to the existing Fire TV and Fire TV Stick.
The image at the top of this article is a mockup I created, but the three card background graphic and the text come directly from the Fire TV source code. The phrase “any voice-enabled remote” seems to imply the new Alexa feature will also work with the Fire TV Remote App. Because the examples provided all begin with “Alexa”, it’s probably safe to assume that Alexa isn’t replacing the existing voice-search capabilities on the Fire TV. You likely cannot use Alexa to find movies and TV shows to watch. If you don’t preface your voice command with “Alexa”, it will probably be handled by the existing voice-search engine.
Below are screenshots of a new “Things to Try” help section hidden in Fire OS 5. If you have Fire OS 5 developer preview installed on your Fire TV, you can access the info yourself by running the following ADB command:
Alexa on the Fire TV will unlock access to a lot of new functionality which will continue to expand as Amazon and third party developers continue to increase Alexa’s capabilities. Some new functionality expected to be available when the feature arrives is the ability to play audiobooks from Audible or Kindle Unlimited libraries. You will also be able to listen to daily customized news briefings or listen to podcasts and live radio via TuneIn or iHeartRadio. Alexa will be able to check traffic conditions, the weather, and your calendar. You’ll have quick voice access to Amazon’s entire music library including Prime Music and music you’ve purchased or uploaded yourself. Alexa can answer a wide range of general knowledge questions and provide sports scores as well. The “Other” section in the “Things to Try” list seems to imply that you will be able to use voice commands to stop what’s playing, as well as mute/unmute the Fire TV.
In addition to audible responses from Alexa, it appears most voice abilities will be accompanied by on-screen cards which display relevant information to you request. This is similar to how the Amazon Echo can be linked with a Fire tablet to display additional information.
The next-generation Fire TV will most certainly be launched with this new Alexa functionality. My sources at Amazon tell me we should see the new Fire TV released before the end of September. I would expect existing Fire TVs and Fire TV Sticks to receive a software update around the same time which adds Alexa capabilities.