Amazon is now asking app developers to add touch interaction to Fire TV apps. Before you think this means that a touchscreen TV running the Fire TV operating system will be released in the future, this request is due to the upcoming release of cars that have Fire TV embedded into their rear seat entertainment screens, which are usually touchscreens. The first vehicle with this capability will be the Jeep Grand Wagoneer debuting later this year. Vehicles from BMW will also come with Fire TV Auto, as the system is being called, but none have specifically been announced yet. Touch interaction won’t be required for a Fire TV app to work in vehicles, but it certainly will make the experience better.
It’s presumed that some, if not all, vehicles with Fire TV Auto will come with a remote, but those that include a touchscreen will allow all interactions to be done without a remote. Direct support for touch interaction in Fire TV apps will certainly result in the best user experience, but Amazon has built a failsafe so that all apps, even those that have not been touch-enabled, will work with touchscreens.
For Fire TV apps that have not been touch-enabled, a virtual remote will appear on the screen so that all apps can be used without a physical remote if necessary. The virtual remote will have a D-Pad, select button, and play/pause/rewind/fast-forward buttons for controlling playback.
Additionally, tapping the screen will display a narrow overlay on the right-hand side with additional navigation buttons. Amazon says the Home and Back buttons will appear in this overlay, but it seems like there are placeholders for additional buttons as well. Notably missing from both the navigation overlay and the virtual remote is a Menu button, which is present on all physical Fire TV remotes, however, there does appear to be a tap and hold interaction that likely replaces the need for a menu button.
With this new touch interaction system for Fire TV, and if enough Fire TV app developers add native touch interaction to their apps, it certainly opens the door for other touch-enabled products running Fire TV to be released. I could certainly see a touchscreen TV running this modified version of Fire TV’s operating system being handy in places like a kitchen where you may not want to pick up a remote due to dirty hands, but I guess tablets and even the Fire TV Cube’s hands-free voice capabilities already solve that problem pretty well.