The Amazon Fire TV Cube has been announced and is available for pre-order. While we’ve learned a lot about Amazon’s new flagship Fire TV model, there are still plenty of unanswered questions and I’ll do my best to get answers to the most common ones. One question that has already come up several times in the comment discussion of the announcement post is whether the Fire TV Cube can be used in the same room as another Echo device. The short answer is yes it can, but there are some things to consider.
Amazon has told me that the Fire TV Cube uses an improved form of Echo Spatial Perception (ESP) made specifically for the Fire TV Cube that helps it function better in the same room as another Alexa device, such as an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot. ESP is what allows multiple Alexa devices to determine which one is closest to the speaker so that only one device responds and executes the request. The Fire TV Cube’s improved ESP is able to determine not only which device is closest to the user, but also which device the user is facing.
If you’re facing the Fire TV Cube when issuing a voice command, the Fire TV Cube is designed to respond even if it is not the closest device to you. Likewise, if you’re in a room with a Fire TV Cube and an Echo device, if you turn and face the Echo and issue a command, the Echo is supposed to respond to you, even if you’re physically closer to the Fire TV Cube.
As stated on the Fire TV Cube’s FAQ page, the recommendation is to either move the other Alexa device to another room or to change the device settings so that the Fire TV Cube and the other Alexa device use different wake words. This is likely because ESP isn’t perfect, as any owner of multiple Echo devices will tell you.
As pointed out by Chris Welch of The Verge, the Fire TV Cube does not use 360-degree microphones like most Alexa devices. Instead, its 8 microphones are all pointed forward, towards the front of the device. This is likely one of the ways it is able to hear commands over the audio coming from the TV, which will likely be above or behind it. This is also likely one of the ways the improved ESP is able to determine if you are facing the Fire TV Cube or not.
If you must keep an Echo or other Alexa device in the same room as the Fire TV Cube, it seems like Amazon has put in the effort to make the experience usable, but for the best experience possible, it seems like it’s best to segregate the Fire TV Cube, either by room or by wake word. We’ll have to see first-hand once it ships later this month.