Alexa on the Amazon Fire TV to receive a complete visual overhaul

Amazon just announced the availability of Alexa Display Cards for third-party manufacturers to incorporate into Alexa-enabled devices that have screens. These are the supplemental visual representations of Alexa responses that first appeared when Amazon added Alexa capabilities to the original Fire TV. Similar Alexa cards were later used on Fire tablets when they gained Alexa capabilities, but now that the the all-new Echo Show is a few days from release, Amazon has given visual Alexa responses a lot more attention and completely overhauled their layout. Part of the new Alexa card display guidelines is a large section dedicated to Alexa’s TV interface, which is very likely going to make its way to the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick in a future update.

Neither Amazon nor the new Alexa card TV design guidelines have explicitly said this new look for Alexa will be coming to Fire TV and Fire TV Stick devices, but it’s pretty obvious Amazon will use their own devices as an example for third-party manufacturers who wish to implement Alexa on their TVs and streaming devices. That said, the dead giveaway that this Alexa redesign will come to the Fire TV is that you can clearly see the Fire TV interface in the background of some of Amazon’s image samples where Alexa does not use the entire screen.

The new look for Alexa on a TV screen is a lot cleaner and more minimalistic than the current implementation. This is immediately evident right off the bat with the new listening interface. Instead of blacking out the entire screen and displaying a waveform of your voice, the new Alexa look will pop up a small icon in the lower right. This makes Alexa an additional element to whatever you’re currently doing with the TV, instead of the main focus.

When the Alexa icon in the lower corner appears, after pressing the microphone button on the Fire TV’s Alexa voice remote, the icon pulses in sync with your voice to indicate the device is hearing your request. Most Alexa response cards then slide in from the right side of the screen. This again shows the new focus on minimalism, since the new cards take up only about a third of the screen, instead of before where they covered nearly the entire screen.

While the new simplified look of Alexa on the TV is cleaner, it comes at the cost of information density. Asking Alexa for the weather, for example, currently displays a full 7 day forecast, while the new minimalistic interface only displays a 3 day forecast. There is no indication that you’ll be able to expand the new Alexa cards so they take up the entire screen, in order to see additional information.

Although you do lose some information with the new Alexa cards in certain instances, it does seem like Amazon is making better use of the available space. When asking general knowledge questions, you’ll still see images and a text description from Wikipedia when available.

Most of the new Alexa cards take up only a portion of the screen, but some, like audio playback requests, do still take up the entire screen. That is because Amazon has greatly enhanced these cards and needs the extra real-estate. Instead of just displaying the track title and album art for music requests, the new Alexa music card also displays a progress bar as well as on-screen playback controls. These controls now allow you to control the music using your remote in addition to your voice. Listening to audio streams through Alexa that do not have track information, like the Flash Briefing, will display jut the audio controls.

An interesting new aspect of the new Alexa cards is the ability for them to overlap each other in certain scenarios. If you’re playing music through Alexa, for example, and then ask a general knowledge question, Alexa’s music interface remains on the screen and the information card slides in on top of the music interface. This is a great improvement over the current interface because, as it is now, doing anything while Alexa plays music will completely close the music card and stop playback. The new Alexa TV interface will continue playing music while you make new requests with Alexa.

The new Alexa interface for TVs and streaming devices, like the Fire TV, is a much cleaner way of visually interacting with Alexa than Amazon’s current implementation on the Fire TV, which always felt like it was tacked on top of the interface as an afterthought. There’s no word when this new interface for Alexa will arrive, but hopefully it’s sooner rather than later.

  1. Mike Agner says:

    Undoubtedly this is part of a marketing strategy to make Alexa more ‘visible’ to the community instead of a faceless – or screenless – voice that answers questions. Visual appeal is a tremendous selling point, particularly since this is something that Google and the other voice-response challengers can’t yet do. One has to wonder, though, that if they are putting this much effort into eventually putting this onto Fire TV and the stick, then why can’t they make Alexa control the FireTV more completely than it currently does? It’s an interesting, if perplexing, strategy, at least insofar as the FireTV is concerned.

    • AFTVnews says:

      Amazon, and most tech hardware companies for that matter, tend to wait for new hardware announcements to reveal new software features, even if those software features are also coming to older devices. I bet we’ll see a lot more interoperability between Alexa and Fire TV later this year when new hardware is announced.

  2. says:

    What is the deal with DirectvNow/ Amazon??? Looked pretty cool. Couldn’t get it to work with my fire stick. I’ve seen quite a few complaints on it

    • Mike Agner says:

      Did you check their online chat, facebook community or YouTube? You’re more likely to find answers there…

  3. Graham says:

    As I have just brought my alexa firestick will it be up graded with M*** and Kodi. Or has this new Alexa firestick been replaced already.

    • Mike Agner says:

      Neither M*** nor Kodi are involved with the firetv directly. It’s up to you to add them to your stick using a process called sideloading. There are several apps that would allow you to install them; Downloader is the one that the owner of this site pushes (and it is very good), but there are several others. This page is, curiously, not part of this site anymore but it still has good information on these methods…

  4. FireTVNoob says:

    What really needs to happen is all Alexa on an Echo, to control Alexa on a Fire TV (stick or box). Even if you have to pair them yourself first. It seems crazy they don’t work like this already.

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