Alexa’s ability to control Amazon Fire TV devices using your voice has been expanding over time but is still fairly limited. That will soon change because the Fire TV’s voice control capabilities will be extending beyond Amazon’s own content and into several 3rd party apps later this year.
Amazon added the ability to launch apps and start playing Amazon Video content using your voice on the Fire TV over a year ago. They later expanded that capability to include moving forward and back within a video using your voice, but the feature was still limited to Amazon’s own content and did not work within apps.
Earlier this year, Amazon introduced the new Alexa Video Skill API which would theoretically allow any app to accept voice commands from Alexa. The combination of that API and the recently added ability for external Alexa devices, like the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot, to remotely control the Fire TV brought hope of true hands-free control of the Fire TV and its apps.
Now Amazon has announced that several 3rd party apps have begun implementing the new Video Skill API. This means that, later this year, you will be able to control video playback using your voice within Hulu, Showtime, PlayStation Vue, CBS, NBC, Bravo, CNBC, and NBC News.
The depth at which voice control is implemented is up to each app, but you should be able to say something like “Alexa, play ‘Ray Donovan’ in Showtime” to immediately start watching a particular piece of content within an app. For apps like Hulu and PlayStation Vue, which offer channels, you should be able to say “Alexa, tune to ABC in PlayStation Vue” to jump directly to the live stream of a particular station.
Once watching content within a supported app, you’ll be able to control playback of the video by asking Alexa to pause or play. You’ll also be able to jump forward or back to precise points by saying things like “Alexa, go back 50 seconds” or “Alexa, forward 10 minutes.“
All of this control will, of course, work through the Alexa voice remote or the voice capabilities of the Fire TV remote app. Even better, though, is that you’ll be able to issue any of these commands to an external Alexa device and control the Fire TV and 3rd party apps without having to even pick up the remote.
This type of deeper voice control integration is why Amazon is now bundling the new Fire TV 3 with an Echo Dot for $79.99 and the existing Fire TV Stick with an Echo Dot for $59.99. Both of those bundle deals are expected to end this Saturday on October 7.
Amazon has said the new voice control features will be available later this year, however, Hulu has been a bit more specific by saying it is coming this fall.