New Alexa voice-control capabilities coming to Amazon’s Fire TV set-top box and Fire TV Stick will lets consumers use their voice to select streaming-video content, find local movie-theater show times, and search local businesses and restaurants, among other things.
The new features will be available in the coming weeks as a free over-the-air software update for all generations of the streaming-media players.
The players previously delivered voice control of music playback from Prime Music, Pandora, iHeartRadio and TuneIn. They also let consumers use their voice to get weather reports, sports scores, the news and more.
Voice control is available through the voice-enabled remote that comes with the $99 Fire TV set-top box and with the device’s smartphone remote-control app. The $39 Fire TV Stick lacks voice remote but comes with remote app. A $49 package combines the Stick with a voice remote.
The software update also adds the VP9 4K codec to the second-generation Fire TV set-top box to stream 4K YouTube video. The second-gen model already streams 4K Amazon Video and 4K Netflix.
With the Alexa updates, Alexa can be used to search across Amazon Video and 59 content partners, including Hulu, Showtime, Starz and HBO Go. Users will be able to launch the streaming apps by saying, for example, "Open HBO Now" or "Launch Hulu.” Users can also select specific movies or TV shows by saying “Play ‘Interstellar’" or "Watch ‘Veep.’"
People can also access Kindle e-books via Alexa to listen to text-to-speech enabled books.
To find local cinema show times, consumers can say, "What movies are playing nearby?" or "Where is ‘The Jungle Book’ playing?"
Similarly, consumers can search for local businesses by asking "What Mexican restaurants are nearby?" or "What time does the nearest bank close?"