Among the never-ending stream of new gadgets coming out of the ongoing Consumer Electronics Show (CES), I spotted what is clearly an unbranded Fire TV Voice Remote with a built-in solar panel. The prototype remote comes from Ambient Photonics, a relatively young company with ambitions to “bring low light energy harvesting technology to mass scale.” In place of standard AA batteries, the Fire TV remote being demonstrated features a small high-density photovoltaic cell that harvests ambient room light to power the device without the need for replacement batteries or manual charging.
While the remote being shown off is very clearly a modified version of the slightly older 2nd-gen Alexa Voice Remote, there is currently no indication that Amazon has actually partnered with Ambient Photonics on a future Fire TV remote. However, Amazon is a lead investor in Ambient Photonics through its Climate Pledge Fund. If that and the prototype remote weren’t enough of a connection to foster speculation, the General Manager of Fire TV devices just announced his departure from Amazon to join Ambient Photonics as its new Chief Product Officer, so there is a very strong bridge between the two companies and Fire TV specifically.
While putting small solar panels on remotes certainly isn’t a new concept and already exists in production remotes, like Samsung’s SolarCell TV remote, those tend to place the solar panel on the back of the remote to maximize the size of the photovoltaic cell. That requires you to remember to flip the remote over when you’re done using it, which is far from a practical solution. The cell placed on the front of the prototype Fire TV remote seems to indicate that the technology may have now advanced to the point where the concept works without sacrificing practicality or comfort. That said, the latest Fire TV remotes now have even less open surface area for the placement of even a small photovoltaic cell, due to the relatively recent addition of app shortcut buttons along the bottom. If the next Fire TV remote does include a solar panel on the front, it may need to grow a bit in length.